Snakes are elongated, legless, carnivorous reptiles of the suborderSerpentes that can be distinguished from legless lizards by their lack of eyelids and external ears. Like all squamates, snakes are ectothermic, amniotevertebrates covered in overlapping scales. Many species of snakes have skullswith several more joints than their lizard ancestors, enabling them to swallow prey much larger than their heads with their highly mobile jaws.
Living snakes are found on every continent except Antarctica, and on most smaller land masses - exceptions include some large islands, such as Ireland and New Zealand, and many small islands of the Atlantic and central Pacific.
Most species are nonvenomous and those that have venom use it primarily to kill and subdue prey rather than for self-defense. Some possess venom potent enough to cause painful injury or death to humans. Nonvenomous snakes either swallow prey alive or kill by constriction.
The origin of snakes remains an unresolved issue. There are two main hypotheses competing for acceptance.
There is fossil evidence to suggest that snakes may have evolved from burrowing lizards, such as the varanids (or a similar group) during the Cretaceous Period. An early fossil snake relative, Najash rionegrina, was a two-legged burrowing animal with a sacrum, and was fully terrestrial.
One extant analog of these putative ancestors is the earless monitorLanthanotus of Borneo (though it also is semiaquatic). Subterranean species evolved bodies streamlined for burrowing, and eventually lost their limbs. According to this hypothesis, features such as the transparent, fused eyelids (brille) and loss of external ears evolved to cope with fossorial difficulties, such as scratched corneas and dirt in the ears.
If you or someone else is bitten by a snake that you think could be venomous, contact your Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222) or your health care provider as soon as possible. It may not be necessary to identify the snake.
If your pet is bitten and is experiencing pain, redness, swelling, or bruising, take your pet to your veterinarian right away. If your pet is not showing any of these signs, consider calling your veterinarian or the National Animal Poison Control Center at 1-800-426-4435 for advice.
Chemical snake repellents are available, but they can pose risks to people, pets, or the environment if they are not used properly. Always be sure to read and follow all label directions if you decide to use one of these products.
Only use repellents that specifically state on the label that they are snake repellents, and use them only according to the label instructions.
Snakes enter areas inhabited by people in search of food and shelter. The easiest thing you can do is make your home and yard less appealing to them.
Prevent snake problems by removing their food sources like rodents. Don't leave pet food out and store animal feed in tight containers.
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