Snakes, also known as Serpents, are elongated carnivore reptiles. They have a backbone and their body is covered with scales. They are found in all ecological terrains, like water, land, underground, trees, plants, and bushes. They are found in every continent except Antarctica. Three thousand species of snakes are presently inhabited on the Earth and 20% of these are venomous. Now, let us understand how do snake fangs work.
1. What are Fangs?
Fangs are long pointed retractable teeth of carnivorous animals. These teeth are actually canines, which are the largest two teeth in the upper and lower jaw. Fangs help in tearing and biting the flesh of the prey. In snakes, these canines are attached to a venom gland which makes them venomous.
2. What is Venom & Venom Gland?
The venom can be considered toxic saliva. It contains zootoxins (highly toxic animal venom) which helps in paralyzing as well as digesting the prey. The venom glands are present on both sides of the head, behind the eyes. Since snakes do not have hands and legs, they have to catch, bite, tear and eat their prey only through their teeth & fangs only. (Also read Top 8 World’s Smallest Animals)
3. How did Snake Fangs Evolve?
When drawing an evolutionary tree, the ancestors of snakes seem to be fangless. The presence of venom glands is believed to be the modified salivary glands called Duvernoy’s glands. This gland has played an important role in shaping the grooved teeth into enlarged fangs. Scientists attribute the evolution of venom to natural selection. The venom gland and teeth are believed to have caused the evolution of one another as they’re mutually beneficial.
- Three groups of snakes – atractaspidinae, elapids & viperids – have evolved with this sophisticated mechanism to inject quick venom.
- While some other snake groups and varieties of lizards have effective modifications to capture and injure their prey, even if not as swift as the former.
4. How do Snake Fangs Works
Fangs are not fixed like other teeth in the mouth. So, when the snake closes its mouth, the fangs get folded inside the upper jaw. The fangs of snakes are divided into four types – Solenoglyphous, Proteroglyphous, Opisthoglyphous, and Aglyphous. The first three types of fangs are venomous. The different species have different fang lengths and different venom and fang mechanisms. Snakes also have the ability to regrow their fangs, if they fall off. This answers the question of how do snake fangs work. (See Why Do Snakes Shed Their Skin?)
5. How do Snakes Kill?
How do snakes inject venom? The fangs are basically hollow teeth that act as a tube for the venom to travel. The ends of the fang let the venom drip out. When the snake senses an attack or prey, it opens its mouth. The retracted fangs are extended, and venom glands open. The fangs are then filled with venom with which the snake can attack its attacker or prey. This toxin paralyzes or kills the opponent as it mixes into the bloodstream. When the prey is big and cannot be held easily, they bite the prey and wait for it to die, after which they swallow them. (Also see Oldest Living Species Alive Today)
6. Which Snakes are Poisonous?
There are both venomous as well as non-venomous snakes crawling on earth. Ranging from lowest to highest, the following snakes fall in the list of top 9 deadliest snakes:
- Black Mamba, found in Savanna has the color from grey to dark brown. They got this name because their mouth is black-colored.
- Yellow Chin also known as Fer-de-lance of Latin America, can be deadly, aggressive, and mildly dangerous depending on the region they are found.
- Boomslang hangs from the branches of the trees and keeps chewing on their victim unless the prey dies of the venom.
- Eastern Tiger Snakes are found in large numbers and reside in the southern parts of Australia and nearby islands.
- Saw-scaled Viper is known to be the most active attacker among all the species in the world.
- Banded Krait is one of the most venomous snakes. Their venom contains a neurotoxin that can paralyze the victim instantly.
- King Cobra, known as the world’s largest venomous snake is capable of killing an elephant in just a few hours because of the intense toxicity of its venom.
- Coastal Taipan found in the regions of Australia is the relative of the cobra. Their venom is considered deadliest from among the 80 percent bites of other snakes.
- Inland Taipan is also known as the fiercest snake. Their venom can cause hemorrhaging in blood vessels and tissues, damages the muscle, paralyzes, and affects the breathing of the victims.
Knowing how do snake fangs work makes it easier to understand why they are one of the deadliest hunters. (See How To Identify Bugs In My Garden?)