Do Snakes Have Bones?
If you want the short answer, then YES, snakes do have bones, many bones.
Although when we think of snakes with their nimble body, lack of limbs and amazing flexibility, they seem to have no bones, nothing farther from the truth.
Snakes do have bones and lots of them. Snakes like many animals belong the vertebrate family, meaning they have a backbone.
An adult human has 206 bones, in various sizes and shapes. Snakes, on the other hand, can have 400 or more bones depending on the species.
However, snakes contrary to most mammals including humans only have a few types of bones, the skull, jawbones and the backbone with its vertebrae and ribs.
It's this unique and simple design of their skeleton that gives snakes their familiar shape and awesome flexibility, and capability to move virtually on any surface.
Because of their distinct body shape their internal organs are also somewhat different. In snakes, the throat occupies the front one-third of the body, and all other organs like the stomach, lungs, liver and kidneys are elongated in shape.
Snake skull and jawbones
To enable them to swallow prey far larger than its head, snakes have a very complex skull structure, with many joints. These special features allow snakes to eat prey up to 3 times their own circumference.
The highly specialized jawbones are loosely attached to the skull with some very stretchy ligaments. The jaws are separated into 4 elements not 2 like humans they aren't fused together on the front.
These bones can move individually, which means snakes can open their mouth wide vertically but also sideways. When a snake eats it alternately moves the jaws on each side, using its teeth to grip and push prey further into its mouth.
They also have a little tube located at the bottom of their mouth which enables the snake to breathe while eating their prey.
The snake's flexible backbone consists of many vertebrae with 2 ribs attached to each one, except in the tail, which has no ribs.
In snakes, the ribs do not join like ours but instead have free ends because snakes lack a breastbone. This allows them to expand the ribs when the snake ingests large prey.
The ribs can also compress in some species, like when a cobra forms a hood as a threat display pulling the top ribs up. It's quite a sight when a king cobra (Ophiophagus hannah) raises its body and stretches it's hood. Instead, the hognose snake flattens himself pulling in his ribs in a defensive mechanism.
Vestigial Limbs in snakes
We all know that snakes don't have legs, right? Well that's not quite true.
Snakes descend from lizards and millions of years ago some lizards born with smaller legs found out that in some environments this was an advantage. As this trait was passed to the next generation the members of this group were born with ever shorter legs, and eventually without legs.
Today snakes don't have limbs as we know them, but some python and boa species have vestigial hind legs known as pelvic spurs. These are usually either quite useless or used to perform very specific tasks even though they are poorly suited to do so.
These spurs are usually very small or absent in females and more developed in males. Males control these vestigial legs and use them in courtship to hold the females.
Did You Know?
The australian inland taipan bite contains venom enough to kill up to 100 full grown men.