Snakes are among the most feared animals on the planet. There are over 3,000 different species, from the four-inch Barbados threadsnake to the 40-foot anaconda. These legless, scaly vertebrates, found in almost every biome, can slither, swim, and even fly. Some snakes are born with two heads, while others can reproduce without males. Their unique qualities make them some of the weirdest animals to be found anywhere in the world
1. Snake Venom May Help Prevent Stroke
Researchers are studying snake venom in the hope of developing future treatments for stroke, heart disease, and even cancer. Snake venom contains toxins that target a specific receptor protein on blood platelets. The toxins can either prevent blood from clotting or cause clots to develop. Researchers believe that irregular blood clot formation and the spread of cancer can be prevented by inhibiting a specific platelet protein.
Blood clotting occurs naturally in order to stop the bleeding when blood vessels become damaged. Improper platelet clotting, however, can lead to heart attack and stroke. Researchers have identified a specific platelet protein, CLEC-2, that is not only needed for clot formation but also needed for the development for lymphatic vessels, which help to prevent swelling in tissues. They also contain a molecule, podoplanin, that binds to the CLEC-2 receptor protein on platelets similarly to the way snake venom does. Podoplanin promotes blood clot formation and is also secreted by cancer cells as a defense against immune cells. Interactions between CLEC-2 and podoplanin is thought to promote cancer growth and metastasis. Understanding how toxins in snake venom interact with blood may help scientists develop new therapies for those with irregular blood clot formation and cancer.
The Black Mamba snake, one of the world’s most poisonous snakes, contains pain-relieving chemicals known as mambalgins that could be a better painkiller than morphine.
Male garter snakes occasionally imitate female garter snakes to be cuddled by other male snakes and steal their heat, a process known as ‘Kleptothermy.’
4. Survival Without Food
Some species of snakes can survive for two years without food.
5. Spitting Cobras Exhibit Deadly Accuracy
Researchers have discovered why spitting cobras are so accurate at spraying venominto the eyes of potential adversaries. The cobras first track the movements of their attacker, then aim their venom at the spot where they expect their attacker’s eyes to be at the next moment. The ability to spray venom is a defense mechanism employed by some cobras to debilitate an attacker. Spitting cobras can spray their blinding venom as far as six feet.
According to researchers, cobras spray their venom in complex patterns in order to maximize the chances of hitting their target. Using high-speed photography and electromyography (EMG), researchers were able to identify muscle movements in the cobra’s head and neck. These contractions cause the cobra’s head to swing back and forth rapidly, producing the complex spraying patterns. Cobras are deadly accurate, hitting targets within two feet nearly 100 percent of the time.
6. Some Snakes Steal Venom From Toxic Toads
A species of non-poisonous Asian snake, Rhabdophis tigrinus, becomes poisonous due to its diet. What do these snakes eat that causes them to become poisonous? They eat certain species of toxic toads. The snakes store the toxins obtained from the toads in glands in their neck. When facing danger, the snakes release the toxins from their neck glands. This type of defense mechanism is usually seen in animals lower on the food chain, including insects and frogs, but rarely in snakes. Pregnant Rhabdophis tigrinus can even pass the toxins on to their young. The toxins protect the young snakes from predators and last until the snakes are able to hunt on their own.
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7. Southern Copperhead
Southern Copperhead’s venom has been discovered to contain a protein that stops the migration of the tumors and stops the cancer cell growth.
8. Video Cameras Have Recorded Snakes “Flying”
Some snakes can glide through the air so quickly it looks like they’re flying. After studying five species from Southeast and South Asia, scientists were able to determine just how the reptiles accomplish this feat. Video cameras were used to record the animals in flight and create 3-D reconstructions of the snakes’ body positions. The studies showed that the snakes can travel up to 24 meters from a branch at the top of a 15-meter tower with constant velocity and without simply dropping to the ground.
From the reconstructions of the snakes in flight, it was determined that the snakes never reach what is known as an equilibrium gliding state. This is a state in which the forces created by their body movements fully counteract the forces pulling down on the snakes. According to Virginia Tech researcher Jake Socha, “The snake is pushed upward even though it is moving downward—because the upward component of the aerodynamic force is greater than the snake’s weight.” This effect, however, is temporary, and ends with the snake landing on another object or on the ground.
The biggest snake fossil ever found is called a Titanoboa. The creature lived about 58-60 million years ago and would have been 15 meters (50 feet) long.
West Lake Restaurant
West Lake restaurant, the world’s biggest Chinese restaurant, employs over 300 chefs, seats 5,000 people and goes through 200 snakes and 700 chickens in one week.