If you follow the ancient Chinese zodiac, we have slithered our way into the Year of the Snake, which runs from Feb. 10, 2013, to Jan. 30, 2014. The Chinese zodiac includes 12 animals that respresent specific personality traits, and for thousands of years people have used these animals to help them understand the world, themselves and the future.
According to the Chinese zodiac, each animal’s special personality trait is passed on to anyone who was born in the year that animal rules. Along with the snake, other animals in the Chinese zodiac include the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. According to the Chinese zodiac, the snake is believed to be charming, smart and introverted. If you were born within the following dates, you were born in the Year of the Snake.
• Jan. 27, 1941-Feb. 14, 1942
• Feb. 14, 1953-Feb. 2, 1954
• Feb. 2, 1965-Jan. 20, 1966
• Feb. 18, 1977-Feb. 6, 1978
• Feb. 6, 1989-Jan. 26, 1990
• Jan. 24, 2001-Feb. 11, 2002
From their biology to their behavior, snakes truly are unique and amazing creatures.
All snakes have a fairly simple body structure — a head, long body, and tail. Their strong and flexible bodies are really just a tube of bone and muscle wrapped around internal organs. Snakes are cold-blooded ectotherms, meaning their body temperature adjusts with the temperature of their external environment. Although snakes can smell through their nose, they also use their forked tongue to find prey and navigate. By using a special sensory organ in their mouths called a Jacobson’s organ, they are able to examine and detect what is immediately around them.
All snakes are carnivorous and have developed unique ways to catch and kill their prey. Species that feed on small prey usually catch it in their jaws and swallow it whole and often alive. Snakes that eat larger prey must kill it before eating. Boas and pythons kill by squeezing and constricting their prey. Some snakes inject venom with their bite. Venoms vary, but they generally kill by affecting the nervous system, tissues, and/or blood. Don’t worry though — less than one-fourth of all snake species are venomous and even fewer are lethal to humans.
Snakes spend most of their time hiding, since it reduces the need to fight their enemies. They use their colors and patterns as camouflage or warnings to potential enemies. Most would rather flee than fight, but if that isn’t an option, snakes have a variety of behaviors to ward off attackers. Cobras try to intimidate their enemies by “hooding up” in a threatening posture, and rattlesnakes shake their tails to warn of their presence. Usually snakes only attack when it’s their last resort.
Snakes also serve an important environmental role by controlling pests that eat crops and spread disease. Unfortunately, the wild populations of these creatures are diminishing worldwide due to habitat destruction and trade in products such as medicine, boots, bags and belts. Some snake species have been extremely close to extinction before researchers even knew they existed.
The Indianapolis Zoo’s Deserts Biome is home to 57 snakes of 29 different species, like the bright and colorful emerald tree boa, eyelash viper and Everglades rat snake. Many of the Zoo’s snakes are nocturnal, and just like their counterparts in the wild, many of them spend the day staying completely still so they don’t give away their position to enemies or potential prey. But for a few brief minutes each Sunday, which is feeding day, the snakes spring into action!
Test your snake knowledge with our online quiz, and find out fun facts about these incredible reptiles on our website.