snake, in zoology: Anatomy
Snakes constitute the suborder Serpentes (or Ophidia). In most snakes limbs are entirely lacking, but a few have traces of hind limbs. The skin, which is covered with horny scales, is shed, usually several times a year. The extremely long, narrow body is associated with distinctive internal features. The number of vertebrae is much larger than in most vertebrates, paired internal organs are arranged linearly rather than side by side, and only one lung is developed, except in members of the boa family, which have two lungs. The jaws of snakes are loosely jointed and extremely flexible. The pointed, backward-curved teeth are fused to the supporting bones of the head. There are no ears or movable eyelids; the eyes are covered by transparent “spectacles,” or ocular scales. Snakes have good vision. They do not hear airborne sound waves, but can perceive low-frequency vibrations (100–700 Hz) transmitted from the ground to the bones of the skull. A chemosensory organ opens into the roof of the mouth; it receives stimuli from the forked tongue that constantly tastes the surroundings as the animal moves along. Snakes have no larynx or vocal chords, but are capable of producing a hissing sound.
Sections in this article:
- Types of Snakes
- Locomotion and Limblessness
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2024, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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