Snake, a limbless reptile. There are about 2,500 species of snakes. Some inhabit the sea and others live in freshwater, but the majority live on land.
AdderAdder, the name of several snakes, including many European vipers and harmless North American snakes. The common adder is another name for the common European viper. Also called adder is the copperhead. Puff adder is a name applied to the true puff adder and to the harmless hognose snake. The milk snake sometimes is called an adder; the water moccasin, the water adder.Night adders form a genus of primitive true vipers. These nocturnal snakes live in Africa south of the Sahara. The death adder of Australia is a venomous snake that resembles a viper.The four species of night adders form the genus Causus of the viper family, Viperidae. The death adder is Acanthophis antarcticus of the cobra and coral snake family, Elapidae.

Most adders are in the family Viperidae. The European viper is classified as Vipera berus. The puff adder is Bitis arietans. The death adder belongs to the family Elapidae. It is classified as Acanthophis antarcticus. Hognose snakes belong to the family Colubridae and the genus Heterodon


Anaconda, or Water Boa, a water snake of Central and tropical South America. Anacondas kill their prey—birds and small reptiles and mammals—by squeezing them until they suffocate, or by drowning them. The female anaconda retains her fertilized eggs in her body until they hatch. Ten to more than 70 young are born at a time.

The giant, or green, anaconda averages about 17 feet (5 m) in length, but some individuals grow to more than 30 feet (9 m) long and are 3 feet (90 cm) around the middle. The giant anaconda is olive green with round black spots. The yellow anaconda is smaller than the giant anaconda. It is yellowgreen with irregular black markings.

The anaconda

The anaconda is a water snake that can grow up to thirty feet long.

How Big Is an Anaconda?

Anaconda (an uh KAHN duh) is the name of two well-known kinds of constrictors. One kind is the largest snake in the world. It can grow to be more than 30 feet (9 meters) in length. All adult anacondas are more than 15 feet (4.6 meters) long. An adult snake this size can weigh over 220 pounds (100 kilograms).

These giant snakes live near rivers and other bodies of water in tropical South America. Anacondas are not poisonous. They belong to the boa family of snakes and are often called “water boas.” Anacondas prey on turtles, birds, mammals, and small caymans (KAY muhnz)—South American crocodiles.

Like most snakes, anacondas are shy. They usually defend themselves from enemies by retreating. If cornered, anacondas will bite. This, along with their great size and weight, can make anacondas dangerous to people.

Anacondas belong to the family Boidae. The giant anaconda is Eunectes murinas; the yellow, E. notaeus.


Asp, a name applied to several different species of poisonous snakes. The term is most commonly used to identify the Egyptian cobra and the horned viper, both of which are native to North Africa and adjacent southwestern Asia. The viper of southern Europe is also called an asp. The asp that, according to legend, Cleopatra used to kill herself is believed to have been the Egyptian cobra.

Asps belong to the family Elapidae. They are Naja haje.


Asps are small venomous snakes native to North Africa.


Cobra, the common name for a group of poisonous snakes of Africa and southern Asia. The name comes from the Portuguese cobra de capello, meaning “hooded snake.” When disturbed, the cobra assumes a position for attack by raising about a third of its body off the ground and inflates the neck into a hood.

Cobras are poisonous, killing their prey with venom that is conducted through two short, hollow teeth called fangs. Most cobras feed at night on small mammals, birds, eggs, and frogs. Predators of the cobra are the kite (a hawklike bird) and the mongoose.

Reptile Image Gallery 

The king cobra

The king cobra often reaches eighteen feet in length.
See more pictures of reptiles.

There are 12 species of cobra. The Indian cobra is 4 to 5 feet (1.2 to 1.5 m) long. It is yellowish-brown and has blotches on the hood that resemble eyes. The Egyptian cobra, or asp, is 4 to 6 feet (1.2 to 1.8 m) long and is olive brown. These two species are used by snake charmers. The king cobra, or hamadryad, is native to southeastern Asia. It is the largest cobra, often reaching 18 feet (5.5 m) in length. It feeds on other species of snakes. The ringhals, a cobra native to Africa, has been known, when startled, to spray its venom to a distance of 6 feet (1.8m). The venom is not lethal, but if it comes into contact with the eyes can cause intense pain and temporary blindness.


Copperhead, a poisonous snake related to the rattlesnake and the water moccasin. It is named for the coppery-red color of its head. The copperhead is about three feet (90 cm) long. Below each eye is a heat-sensing pit, which helps the snake locate prey. Copperheads feed on small rodents and birds, frogs, and insects. The female bears 1 to 14 live young, in late summer. The range of the copperhead is an area extending southwest-ward from Massachusetts to south-central Texas and northern Mexico. The copperhead is found mostly on rocky, wooded hillsides and along the edges of swamps and streams.

The copperhead

The copperhead is a pit viper related to the rattlesnake.

Coral Snake
Coral Snake

Coral Snake, a small poisonous snake of the Western Hemisphere. There are about 50 species. A coral snake has a cylindrical, neckless body marked with alternating broad bands of black and red separated by narrow bands of yellow. Adults are from two to five feet (0.6 to 1.5 m) long. Most species burrow in the ground. The snake will bite only if molested. The harlequin coral snake is found in the southeastern United States; the Sonoran coral snake in Mexico, New Mexico, and Arizona; and the South American coral snake in tropical South America.

The harlequin coral snake is Micrurus fulvius; Sonoran, Micruroides euryxanthus; South American, Micrurus spixi. They belong to the family Elapidae.

South American coral snakes

South American coral snakes are poisonous with red, black, and yellow-white bands.


Fer-de-lance, a venomous snake of Central and South America and the West Indies. The fer-de-lance is related to the pit viper and rattlesnake, but has no rattles. It is named for its lance-shaped head. The fer-de-lance grows to a length of six feet (1.8m). It is gray, olive, or brown above and white or cream below. The back is marked with dark blotches.

The fer-de-lance hides in a hole in the ground or under plants during the day and hunts at night. It preys on small mammals, birds, frogs, and lizards. The females give birth to living young. As many as 70 young, about one foot (30 cm) long, are born at a time. The young take care of themselves from birth. The fer-de-lance is preyed upon by armadillos and hog-nosed skunks.

There are at least two species of fer-de-lance—Bothrops atrox and B. andianus. They belong to the subfamily Crotalinae of the viper family, Viperidae

Garter Snake
Garter Snake

Garter Snake, a harmless snake found in the United States, southern Canada, and Mexico. Garter snakes are from two to four feet (60 to 120 cm) long. They are usually brownish or greenish, with three light stripes running the full length of their slender bodies. Some species are checkered between the stripes. Garter snakes are found in damp places, often in parks and gardens. They feed chiefly on field mice, insects, worms, toads, and frogs. When caught, some garter snakes throw off a strong odor from their glands. The young are born alive, often 20 or more to a litter.

Garter snakes belong to the genus Thamnophis of the family Colubridae.

Hognose Snake
Hognose Snake

Hognose Snake, a nonpoisonous snake of North America that is harmless to humans. It is also called the puff adder because it flattens its head and neck, inflates its body with air, and hisses loudly when disturbed. It rarely, if ever, bites in defense. If the intruder is not bluffed, the snake rolls over as if dead.

There are three species. All have upturned snouts, used in burrowing for toads, the chief food, although frogs and tadpoles are also eaten. Color varies greatly, out usually there are regularly spaced dark blotches along the upper sides and middle of the back.

The eastern hognose is Heterodon platyrhinos (usually 18 to 30 inches [45 to 75 cm]; color may be yellow, brown, gray, orange, or red, but jet black or nearly plain gray ones are known). The southern is H. simus (usually 14 to 20 inches [35 to 50 cm]; color fairly constant grayish brown). The western, which has several subspecies, is H. nasicus (usually 16 to 32 inches [40 to 80 cm]; belly must be checked to distinguish it from other species; usually has black ventral areas interspersed with white or yellow). All are of the family Colubridae.


Mamba, a poisonous snake of tropical and southern Africa. It is related to the cobra, but, unlike the cobra, cannot expand its neck into a hood. There are several species, the largest measuring about 14 feet (4.3 m) in length. Most mambas are green, marked with black or brown. They typically live in trees or bushes, travel rapidly, and are aggressive. Their bites are usually fatal to humans. The largest and most feared species, the black mamba, is green when young, black in the adult stage. It is widely distributed. The smaller green mamba is found chiefly in the east and southeast.

The black mamba is Dendroaspis polylepis; green, D. angusticeps. Mambas belong to the family Elapidae

Milk Snake

Milk Snake
Milk Snake, a nonpoisonous, useful species of king snake. The milk snake is found throughout the eastern United States and in southern Ontario. It frequents barns and farmyards in search of mice and rats. Its name is based on the false belief that the snake sucks milk from cows. The milk snake attacks and swallows both harmless and poisonous snakes, and is at least partly immune to most snake venom.
Milk snakes
Milk snakes resemble coral snakes, but are harmless to humans.
The milk snake’s body, which may be 40 inches (1 m) long, is marked with black-edged spots of red, brown, olive, or gray. The female lays from 6 to 12 leathery white eggs, usually underground or in moist, rotting wood. The young are more brightly colored than the adults
Moccasin, a poisonous snake related to the copperhead and rattlesnake. It is found in swamps, lakes, and rivers in North America, Mexico, and South America. It is a stout-bodied snake with a wide head and pits beneath its eyes. It feeds on frogs, fish, small snakes, and birds. The water moccasin, also called water adder and cottonmouth (because of its white mouth), is found in the southeastern United States and from southern Illinois west to Texas. It is brown, olive or black above with lighter underparts. There are dark crossbands on the back. It reaches a length of six feet (1.8 m). When alarmed, unlike other venomous snakes, it opens its mouth, showing its fangs. The bite of the water moccasin can be fatal to humans.The water moccasin is Agkistrodon piscivorus of the pit viper subfamily, Crotalinae, of the viper family, Viperidae.The water moccasin

The water moccasin is a North American pit viper that lives in swamps and bayous.
Pit Viper
Pit Viper
Pit Viper, a poisonous snake with a deep pit on each side of the head, between the eye and the nostril. The pits are sensitive to heat and help the snake find warm-blooded prey, such as birds and rodents. The fangs in the upper jaw are movable and swing forward before the snake bites its victim. Each fang contains venom. Pit vipers are found from southern Canada to Argentina, in Asia, and in eastern Europe.There are three genera of pit vipers in North America: the moccasins (Agkistrodon), the pigmy rattlesnakes (Sistrurus), and the rattlesnakes (Crotalus). Pit vipers make up the subfamily Crotalinae of the viper family, Viperidae.
Puff Adder
Puff Adder
Puff Adder, the name of two unrelated snakes. One is a nonpoisonous North American species properly called the hognose snake. The other is a very poisonous species of Africa and Arabia. It lives in deserts and grasslands. The thick body, about four feet (1.2 m) long, is gray or brown with yellow markings.The poisonous puff adder is Bitis arietans, or B. lachesis, of the family Viperidae

Python, a large, primitive snake of tropical Asia and Africa. Like the similar but unrelated boa constrictor of tropical America, the python has vestigial hind limbs that extend outside the body as a pair of short spurs. Unlike the boa, the python lays eggs—as many as 100 at a time—instead of bearing its young alive.


Pythons are among the largest snakes in the world.

The python is not poisonous. However, it can inflict a severe wound with its many long, sharp teeth. It eats birds and mammals, capturing its prey by biting and holding on, then swiftly looping itself around the victim. The snake tightens its coils until the prey, unable to breathe, dies of suffocation. (The python does not crush its prey.) The snake swallows its prey whole and rests for days while the meal is slowly digested. It can swallow creatures much larger than itself, because its skin is somewhat elastic and its jaws and ribs are hinged with tissue that stretches readily, permitting the mouth, throat, and abdomen to expand.

Types of Pythons

There are about 30 species of pythons. Most are ground-dwellers that occasionally climb trees. Some live only in trees; a few are burrowers. All are good swimmers.

The largest python is the reticulated python of southeastern Asia and the East Indies. It has been known to reach a length of about 30 feet (9 m) and a weight of 250 pounds (113 kg). (Only the anaconda, a type of boa, is of comparable size.) The reticulated python is brown with dark, squarish markings edged with yellow. It lives mainly in forests, but also is found in populated areas, where it feeds on poultry, cats, and dogs. Pythons rarely attack human beings.

Other large pythons include the African rock python, the Burmese python, and the Indian python, all of which may reach a length of 20 feet (6 m) or more. In captivity, pythons live about 20 years

Rattlesnake, a venomous snake having a rattle at the end of its tail. There are 42 species and subspecies of rattlesnakes. All are native to the Americas, where they range from southern Canada to Argentina. In the United States, which is the home of 13 species, rattlesnakes are found in nearly every state. They are most numerous and varied in the Southwest and in northern Mexico.


Rattlesnakes: Ridge-nosed, Sidewinder, Northern Pacific, and Timber

Where Do Rattlesnakes Live?

Rattlesnakes inhabit the prairies, grasslands, pine woods, swamps, and forests of both North and South America. Their range reaches from southern Canada to Argentina. A few live east of the Mississippi River, but most live in southwestern United States and northern Mexico.

There are about 30 species of rattlesnakes. Some, like the ridge-nosed rattlesnake, usually grow between 15 and 24 inches (38 and 61 centimeters). Others, like the eastern diamondback rattlesnake, are long, thick, and heavy. Eastern diamondbacks are the longest rattlers. They grow to more than 7 feet (2.2 meters) in length!

Snake, a limbless reptile. There are about 2,500 species of snakes. Some inhabit the sea and others live in freshwater, but the majority live on land. Land snakes may burrow in the ground or live in trees or in rocky crevices. In size, snakes range from the 4-inch (10-cm) blind snake to the reticulated python, which may be 30 feet (9 m) or longer. Snakes are often beneficial to humans by killing unwanted insects and rodents. Snake-skins are used to make shoes, handbags, and other articles. Almost all snakes bite to defend themselves or to obtain food, but only a few are venomous (poisonous). The bite of some of the venomous species can be fatal to humans.


\Snakes are limbless reptiles that come in various forms.
The Ultimate Snake Quiz
Venomous Snakes
ViperViper, a poisonous snake. There are more than 180 species in the viper family; some are commonly called adders. Vipers have thick bodies and flat, triangular heads. Their fangs fold back against the roof of the mouth when not in use. Vipers live mainly on the ground, but some live in trees. They feed on frogs, lizards, and small mammals and birds. The females of most species bear live young. Pit vipers belong to a subfamily of the viper family.Vipers
Vipers are poisonous snakes with thick bodies and flat, triangular heads.
The European viper, or common adder, is found from Great Britain to southeast Asia, and within the Arctic Circle. It is pale gray to yellow with a dark brown line down its back. It grows to a length of two feet (60 cm). Its bite is rarely fatal to humans. Russell’s viper, found in India, Sri Lanka, and Thailand, reaches a length of about four feet (1.2 m). It is tan, blue, and black with geometric markings on its back. Its bite is deadly. The Gaboon viper of Africa is the largest of the vipers, reaching a length of 6 1/2 feet (2 m). It is yellowish with three rows of oval, dark-ringed spots on its body. Its fangs are two inches (5 cm) long—longer than those of any other snake—and its bite is deadly.How to Identify Garden Snakes

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