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Differences Between Poisonous and Non-poisonous Snakes

When differentiating between poisonous and non-poisonous snakes, several key physical characteristics and features can be observed. Understanding these differences is crucial for identifying and handling snakes safely.

Poisonous Snakes

  1. Body Color: Poisonous snakes often have bright body colors, which can serve as a warning signal to potential predators.
  2. Neck Constriction: Their necks are typically constricted, appearing thinner compared to the rest of the body.
  3. Head Shape: The head of a poisonous snake is long, triangular, and wide due to the presence of poison glands located on both sides.
  4. Hood: Many poisonous snakes have a hood, which is an expanded, flattened region of the neck that can be displayed when threatened.
  5. Tail Shape: The tail of a poisonous snake usually tapers abruptly, except in sea snakes where it may taper gradually.
  6. Head Shield: The head of a poisonous snake is typically covered by a very large shield.
  7. Scales: The scales on the top of the head are small, and those on the dorsal surface of the trunk are smaller but the spinal scales are large and hexagonal.
  8. Ventral Surface: The ventral surface is covered with large transverse plates. Usually, no small scales are visible from below. It’s important to note that while all poisonous snakes must have broad plates on the belly, snakes with broad plates are not always poisonous.
  9. Teeth: Their teeth are not uniform; the maxillary teeth are large and are referred to as ‘fangs.’ These fangs are grooved or have a canal for delivering venom.
  10. Poison Glands: Poisonous snakes possess two poison glands for producing venom.

Non-poisonous Snakes

  1. Body Color: Non-poisonous snakes generally have less bright body colors.
  2. Neck: Their necks are not constricted and are proportionate to the rest of the body.
  3. Head Shape: The head of a non-poisonous snake is usually narrow and elongated.
  4. Hood: The hood is usually absent in non-poisonous snakes.
  5. Tail Shape: The tail of a non-poisonous snake tapers gradually.
  6. Head Shield: The head shield of non-poisonous snakes is small.
  7. Scales: They have large scales, usually nine in number, with large dorsal scales and smaller spinals that are not hexagonal.
  8. Ventral Surface: The ventral surface is covered either with small scales or small scales are visible on both sides of the transverse plate below.
  9. Teeth: Their teeth are uniform and solid.
  10. Poison Glands: Non-poisonous snakes do not possess poison glands.
Differences Between Poisonous and Non-poisonous Snakes
Differences Between Poisonous and Non-poisonous Snakes

Differences Between Poisonous and Non-poisonous Snakes

CharacteristicPoisonous SnakesNon-poisonous Snakes
Body ColorGenerally brightNot so bright
Neck ConstrictionPresentAbsent
Head ShapeLong, triangular, wide due to poison glandsNarrow, elongated
HoodPresent in majorityUsually absent
Tail ShapeAbruptly tapering (except in sea snakes)Gradually tapering
Head ShieldVery largeSmall
ScalesTop of head: small; Dorsal trunk: smaller; Spinal: large, hexagonalLarge, usually nine; Dorsal: large; Spinal: smaller, not hexagonal
Ventral SurfaceCovered with large transverse plates; No small scales visibleCovered with small scales or small scales visible on both sides of transverse plate
TeethNot uniform; Large maxillary teeth (fangs) grooved or with canalUniform, solid
Poison GlandsPresent (two glands)Absent
Differences Between Poisonous and Non-poisonous Snakes
Differences Between Poisonous and Non-poisonous Snakes

Examples of Poisonous Snakes

There are numerous species of poisonous snakes found around the world. Here are some examples:

  1. Cobra: Cobras are found in various parts of Africa and Asia. They are known for their distinctive hoods and are capable of spitting venom.
  2. Rattlesnake: Found predominantly in the Americas, rattlesnakes are known for the rattling sound they make by vibrating their tails. They have potent venom.
  3. Taipan: The inland taipan, found in Australia, is considered one of the most venomous snakes in the world.
  4. Black Mamba: Found in Africa, the black mamba is known for its speed and potent venom.
  5. Russell’s Viper: Found in Asia, particularly in India, this viper is responsible for many snakebite incidents in the region.
  6. Cottonmouth: Also known as water moccasins, these snakes are found in the southeastern United States and are known for their aggressive behavior and potent venom.
  7. Boomslang: Found in sub-Saharan Africa, the boomslang has a potent venom that affects blood clotting.
  8. Inland Taipan: Found in Australia, this snake has the most toxic venom of any snake.

Examples of Non-poisonous Snakes

Non-poisonous snakes, also known as non-venomous snakes, are found in various parts of the world. Here are some examples:

  1. Ball Python: Native to central and western Africa, ball pythons are popular as pets due to their docile nature and manageable size.
  2. Corn Snake: Found in North America, corn snakes are non-venomous and are known for their attractive coloration and ease of care in captivity.
  3. Garter Snake: Common in North America, garter snakes are harmless and are known for their distinct stripes.
  4. King Snake: King snakes are found in North and South America. They are known for their powerful constriction abilities and immunity to certain types of venom.
  5. Milk Snake: Milk snakes are found in the Americas. They are non-venomous and are often mistaken for coral snakes due to their similar coloration.
  6. Rat Snake: Rat snakes are found worldwide and are known for their ability to climb. They are often kept as pets to control rodent populations.
  7. Green Anaconda: While anacondas are large and powerful, they are not venomous. The green anaconda is found in South America and is one of the largest snake species in the world.
  8. Boa Constrictor: Boa constrictors are found in Central and South America. They are non-venomous and kill their prey by constriction.

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