Do Snakes Have Bones?

Updated on March 8, 2023

Have you ever had a close encounter with a sleek and beautiful elongated creature that crawled right past you while leaving you in awe and terror at the same time?

Snakes! That’s what we are talking about!

As exotic as they look, snakes can very well be fatal and an encounter gone wrong with certain types can also result in serious injury or even death of the subject. 

While snakes have been an integral part of humans since their inception, there are still many important questions that revolve around the anatomy of a snake’s body.

Of the many questions, one of the most commonly asked is: Do snakes have bones in their bodies?

Let’s find out.

See Also: What Do Scorpions Eat?

Do Snakes Have Bones?

snake skull

In short, yes. Snakes have bones.

These nimble bodied, amazingly flexible creatures might give off the impression of possessing a body with no limbs, but mind you, snakes actually belong to the vertebrate family.

As strange as it sounds, a snake can actually have 400 or more bones, depending on the species.

What distinguishes a snake’s skeleton from that of a mammal’s is unlike most mammals, including humans, snakes only have a few types of bones, the skull, jawbones, and the backbone with its vertebrae and ribs.

Read Also: Are Moles Blind?

WHY Do Snakes Have Bones?

If you have ever seen an accordion playing, you can definitely relate to what I am saying when I say a snake can extend and contract.

There are a series of bones that make up the head area for the snake. In addition to jaws, bones fuse to form the cranial area that surrounds and protects the brain. 

Just like in any other animal, bones in the skull are intended for support and protection, especially for the brain.

The rest of the bones, like the vertebrae and ribs, are present to support the structure of the body, and more importantly, it is the area where the muscles connect so that the snake can move around.

How Many Bones Can a Snake Have?

does a snake have a backbone

The longer the snake is, the more bones it needs to support its frame. An average snake including that garter snake in your backyard can have 400 or more bones. It really depends on the size.

Do Snakes Have a Backbone?

Yes, snakes do in fact have a backbone. As we have already discussed above, snakes belong to the vertebrate family. Vertebrates are organisms with backbones.

The backbone of a snake is made up of vertebrae, which are attached to ribs. This results in the flexibility of a snake and the swift movements of its body.

Each vertebra has two ribs attached to it, except the tail/end, which has no ribs.

There is a bony outcrop of the vertebrae in the facade and the rear of the backbone, the function of which is to lock the vertebrae in position while allowing for elasticity.

See Also: Difference Between Snake Poop and Lizard Poop

What Does a Snake’s Skeleton Looks Like?

snake skeleton

Snakes have a very complex skull structure, with many joints. This enables them to swallow prey far larger than their head. It is noted that a snake can swallow prey up to 3 times its own circumference.

The jawbones are highly specialized and loosely attached to the skull with some very stretchy ligaments. Unlike humans, the jaws in snakes are separated into 4 elements and aren’t fused together in the front.

Another striking fact about snakes is that a snake can open its mouth vertically wide but also sideways. This is possible because the bones in the mouth can move individually.

A snake’s mouth works like a machine when it eats prey. Using the jaws of each side alternately, the snake pushes the prey further into its mouth.

There is a little tube located at the bottom of the mouth that enables the snake to breathe while eating its prey.

The ribs of snakes are unlike humans because they have free ends; they do not join. This allows expansion for ingesting a large prey and in the case of a little species, compression.

See Also: How to Keep Copperhead Snakes Away

Final Words

There are almost 3,000 species of snakes in the world, out of which some 600 species are venomous snakes, and 200 are reckoned medically important.

Fear of snakes among humans is understandable since they are responsible for a number of bites and deaths. However, these majestic creatures usually try to avoid any contact with humans. If not startled or threatened, snakes usually do not attack humans.

So, next time you have a close encounter with a snake, stand still and grab the opportunity to appreciate this awe-inspiring creation- who, by the way, do have nimble bones and a very flexible skeleton as discussed above.