The Official HowStuffWorks Snake Quiz

By: Ian Fortey
Image: Mark Kostich / E+ / Getty Images

About This Quiz

Snakes have gotten a bad rap for years now without a lot of good reason. Alongside sharks and spiders, they're very misunderstood creatures that cause a lot of not-entirely justified fear in people. Yes, many of them can be dangerous, but hey, many people are dangerous too, and we still go out to shopping malls with strangers around. You just need to understand what you're dealing with and learn to respect it. Snakes aren't trying to be bad guys; they don't even have a concept of bad. They're just animals, and they have a different way of viewing the world than humans do.

Given how many species of snakes there are around the world, how many can be dangerous and in what different ways, it'd be taxing for any person to try to know everything there is to know. But if you have an interest in snakes, then surely you have amassed some knowledge. Maybe you even consider yourself something of a snake expert, the go-to source in your circle of friends for all things snake-related. Maybe you even know enough about our scaly friends to ace this quiz we put together? There's one way to know for sure—take the quiz!

Approximately how many species of snakes are there?

There are in the neighborhood of 3,000 to 4,000 known species of snakes out there in the world, though of course it's possible more could be identified. Most of those are fairly harmless overall, with around 600 species being venomous.

Which of these snakes is generally considered to be the most venomous snake in the world?

The Inland Taipan is native to Australia, and pound for pound it has the most toxic venom of any snake in the world. A single strike from the Inland Taipan can inject enough venom into the victim to kill 100 grown men, so don't mess with this snake.

Approximately how many species of snake worldwide are herbivores?

There isn't a single species of herbivore snake in the world. All snakes are carnivores and eat meat, so keep an eye on your steak at a barbecue and don't worry about the salad.

What was the name of the largest snake species to ever exist?

Fossils have indicated that the largest snake ever was the Titanoboa. It lived about 60 million years ago and grew to be over 40 feet long while reaching a weight of over one ton.

The smallest snake in the world was discovered in Barbados. How long do these little guys get when they're full grown?

The scientific name for this little guy is "Leptotyphlops carlae," and it only grows to four inches long. They're also about as thin as a spaghetti noodle and weren't discovered until 2008. It's no wonder no one noticed them before if they're that small.

How many species of snakes lay eggs?

Surprisingly, not all snakes lay eggs. About 70% of snake species lay eggs, but the other 30% keep the eggs inside so they can live birth the young. This is due to the climate where the snakes live being too cold for the eggs.

The black mamba is considered the fastest snake in the world. How fast can it move?

The black mamba can move at speeds up to 12 miles per hour and is considered the most dangerous snake in the world, even though its venom is not the most toxic. The speed combined with aggression and a potent venom is what makes it so dangerous.

Snakes don't have eyelids. Instead, they have transparent scales over their eyes. What are they called?

The brille, sometimes called simply ocular scales, are clear scales that cover the snake's eye. Like the rest of a snake's scales, they will come off as the snake sheds its skin and are replaced with new scales.

What is the name of the organ in a snake's mouth that helps it smell and taste the air?

The Jacobson's organ is also called the vomeronasal organ. When a snake flicks out its tongue, it will retract it and press it against the Jacobson's organ. Scent particles in the air are caught by the tongue and detected by the organ, which lets the snake know it's smelling something like prey in the air.

Researchers in 2008 were studying snake bites and came up with a number of yearly fatalities caused by snakes. What was the number?

The research on this one was not 100% certain, but the estimation was that 20,000 people a year die from snake bites. The researchers also added that, due to unreported incidents and other factors, that number could be as high as a staggering 94,000 deaths per year

How can you tell the difference between a snake and a legless lizard?

Legless lizards and snakes are two different animals entirely; they just look the same at first glance. One of the easiest features that helps distinguish them is the fact lizards have eyelids and snakes don't.

Snakes have some unique biology when compared to a human, for instance. What's the difference between human lungs and snake lungs, aside from size?

Snakes do have two lungs, but the left lung is undersized and sometimes just used for buoyancy. The right lung is the one that does most of the work in a snake.

What happens to the heart of a snake like a Burmese python after a large meal?

Research has shown that after a snake eats a large meal, its internal structure actually changes to accommodate that meal. A python's heart can grow 40% larger. It's believed this happens to allow the snake to pump blood faster through the body after it has eaten.

Some snakes will do something called "aestivation." What does that mean?

Aestivation is essentially hibernation, but instead of occurring during the coldest winter months, it occurs during the peak of hot, dry seasons. The point is to lower the metabolic rate and preserve moisture—basically to wait out the harshest temperatures until things are more tolerable.

At what age will a snake stop growing?

Like most animals, a snake's growth does even out a bit in time, but it never truly stops growing. For as long as the snake lives, it will continue to grow in size.

How long can a snake survive without eating a meal?

Studies have shown a number of species of snakes can survive for over six months without food. Bizarrely, the snakes will actually continue to grow during that time. It's likely snakes could survive much longer, but it's definitely not safe to make a snake do that.

How are sea snakes able to survive in the water?

True sea snakes live their whole lives in water and in fact can't survive on land because they lack the same scales as their terrestrial cousins that help them navigate dry land. When submerged, their valved nostrils close up to prevent water from getting in, and they are also able to breathe through their skin, which allows for more air absorption and longer dives below the surface.

Spitting cobras are some of the most dangerous snakes in the world. How far can a cobra spit its venom?

The danger zone for a spitting cobra is within about six feet. After that, you still want to keep your distance, but it's much less likely to hit you. Not only can these snakes spit venom, but they do so with amazing accuracy, aiming specifically for the eyes of their prey. The toxins in the venom could blind a human.

There's an island off the coast of Brazil called "Snake Island" that is illegal to visit. What species lives there?

Snake Island, also known as "Ilha da Queimada Grande," is home to a massive population of golden lancehead pit vipers, which are highly aggressive and deadly. It's believed there is at least one snake for every square meter of space on the island.

What should you do if you've been bitten by a snake and aren't sure if it's venomous or not?

Putting a clean, dry bandage on the wound and calling for help is the go-to response for a snake bite. Never, ever try to suck out the poison or clean it, as this can make it spread faster through your bloodstream. Also, don't try to catch the snake; you don't want to get bit again.

Which of these snakes is most commonly kept as a pet?

Ball pythons are extremely common pets among snake-lovers because they tend to be very even-tempered. You can find ball pythons at just about any pet store across North America.

What is the most common snake in North America?

The garter snake, sometimes called a gardener snake, can be found all across the country and throughout Canada as well. Though harmless to humans, they actually do possess a very mild venom that helps them subdue prey.

What is going on in a rattlesnake's tail that causes it to make that rattling sound?

A baby's rattle may have little beads inside but a snake rattle does not. Instead, every time the rattlesnake sheds, a segment is added onto the tail. These segments click together when the snake shakes and vibrates its tail, creating the rattle effect.

In which of these places are you not going to find any native snakes?

Despite the famous story about St. Patrick driving the snakes out of Ireland, there are no actual snakes in Ireland and no evidence there ever was. Maybe that's how St. Patrick convinced everyone he'd done the job.

How many species of snakes are capable of chewing their food?

Snakes mouths just aren't designed for chewing. No matter how a snake captures its prey, whether by constriction or by using venom, they have to swallow it whole.

The green anaconda is considered the largest snake in the world. It's not necessarily the longest, but it's definitely the heaviest. How much can it weigh?

Even though some snakes do reach longer length, the green anaconda is the most massive species currently alive. The snakes can reach around 17 to 20 feet in length, though some have grown much bigger, and break the scales at over 500 pounds.

Many snakes have some pretty dangerous-looking fangs. Which species has the longest fangs of all?

The Gaboon viper has the longest fangs of any snake species. They have been recorded at lengths of up to two inches. The fangs are actually hinged in the snake's mouth so that they can fold up when not in use.

What is the term used to describe when a snake bites but chooses not to inject venom?

A snake like a viper can choose when it will inject venom, and as such it can bite something like a person's foot without actually envenomating the wound, which is referred to as a dry bite. Many human bites are actually dry bites.

Flying snakes actually climb trees and flatten their bodies to glide down from the branches. How far can one of these snakes fly?

Flying snakes have been recorded traveling distances of 100 meters or over 300 feet on a single glide. They are able to suck in their abdomens and flatten then bodies until they look kind of like a long, flat wing and are fairly adept at aiming themselves at a target, which they then glide toward.

What material are snake scales made from?

Keratin is what snake scales are made of, and also the upper layer of fish scales as well. You probably recognize keratin as the same substance that human fingernails and hair is made from. It's versatile stuff!

In 2014, who went on the Discovery channel to allegedly be eaten alive by a snake, only to back out shortly after the anaconda started constricting him?

"Eaten Alive" was a special that Discovery aired in 2014 which promised to show Paul Rosolie being eaten by a green anaconda. Rosolie was wearing a special body suit and had a breathing apparatus that would supposedly keep him alive. Instead, he panicked as the snake began trying to eat him, and it was all called off.

What is unique about the way a flowerpot snake reproduces?

Flowerpot snakes are bizarre little creatures that reproduce asexually. All known snakes in the species are female, and their young are all genetically identical to the mother.

Which of these snakes was found to have photoreceptors in its tail, meaning it can detect when its tail is exposed to light?

The olive sea snake may not be the only snake with photoreceptors, but it is certainly one of the few ever identified. It's believed these cells help the snake hide from view by ensuring it can tell of all of its body, even the top of its tail, is in the shadows.

What do you call a fear of snakes?

Ophidiophobia, the fear of snakes, is sometimes called herpetophobia. It gets its weird name from the Greek word for snake, which is "ophis."

How long does it take a large snake like an anaconda to digest a meal?

Anacondas can take down some very large prey like deer or crocodiles, but the trade-off is it takes a very long time to finish that meal. Large prey can literally take weeks to fully digest.

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