Do Snakes Have Backbones? (17 Interesting Facts)

As snakes are super flexible allowing them to Crawl on trees, Swim in water and even Jump  makes you think that snakes have no bones, also sometimes drive people to argue that they don’t have backbone or some people to argue that they indeed have flexible backbones and so on. 

We have written this article Do Snakes Have Backbones in order to give many answers through scientific way along with clearing the doubts, myths regarding snakes.

Do Snakes Have Backbones? Yes, Snakes do have backbones, because they are vertebrates and these backbones are made up of 200-400 small units of bones called vertebrae, each vertebrae have ribs in them except at head and tail regions.

Many vertebrae joined together to form the vertebral column that is commonly called backbone.

How many Backbones does a Snake have?

All of the species of snakes, whether venomous or non-venomous, have a backbone. These backbones are complex due to the number of small bones called ‘vertebrae’ that are responsible for making their backbones are about 200 – 400, depending upon the species of snakes.

Each vertebrae has two flexible ribs in it, one for the left side and other at the right side. Thus they can be better described as animals with complex backbones, Since it has many vertebrae and corresponding ribs in it, that are responsible for the snake’s flexibility, and length, and protecting internal organs of a snake.

The backbone of snakes is super flexible due to each vertebrae bringing little flexibility so many vertebrae are joined to bring more flexibility.

How many Backbones does a Human have?

Humans have 33 Vertebrae(units of backbones) in their backbone with 12 pairs of ribs that are attached to only 12 vertebrae at thoracic regions of the body to form ribcage. The ribcage is responsible for protecting internal organs such as Lungs, Heart, etc.

Quick Definitions and Answers:

Vertebrae: Small bones that form the backbone.

Vertebral Column: Many Vertebrae with its corresponding ribs join together to form Vertebral Column. It is also called Backbone.

Backbones of Snakes and Humans:

Number of Vertebrae200-400 (depend on species)33
Number of Ribs100-400 (depend on species)24

How Do Snakes Move?

The underside or ventral surface of the snake is covered by scales which participate in a forward movement, by pushing against the surface or ground in which it is laying on.

Snakes have specialised muscles along their backbones that enable them to propel forward.

The ribs are attached to the vertebrae and to the muscles that are responsible for contraction and relaxation.Thus, In case of slow movement, each scale can be moved independently. In case of  moving fast, the snake coils into a ‘S’ form and propels forward with a grip on the floor.

Where Does this Flexibility come from?

Vertebrae to vertebrae connections

Each vertebra is connected to another vertebrae by a ball and socket joint Similar to the one in your shoulder. The attached bone in a Ball-and-Socket joint can move around several points with one common center. This causes the bone in a vertebra to rotate about 360 degrees, which, when added together from all of the vertebra, gives the snake overall super flexibility.

Snakes periodically shed their skin because they continue to grow throughout its life.

How does a snake swallow an animal which is larger than its mouth?

A snake’s ribs do not join together at the other end or at the front side of the body. This makes the ribcage to independently expand as much as it can during swallowing bigger animals.

Snakes have loose hinge jaws and lower jaws that can move easily,  thus the mouth can expand more than their bodies allowing them to swallow animals that are bigger than their bodies.

Snakes have skins that are capable of expanding at greater extents which allows them to expand along their bodies while swallowing bigger animals.

What Is Inside A Snake?

Apart from snake skeleton, backbone, that is vertebrae and its ribcage, snakes have organs like in the other animals but they differ in shape due to the long cylindrical shapes of the snake body.

According to the shape of the snake, the internal organs shapes are also adapted in snakes, that is, snakes have long lungs, a long liver, long kidneys and  long intestines that are all well adopted inside the long bodies of the snakes.

What Animals Have No Backbones?

Invertebrates such as Octopus, Starfish, Insects, Worms, Crab, Scorpions, Jellyfishes etc don’t have backbones. However, they have exoskeletons that give them Shape, Strength and Protection against damages caused by nature and its predators. Animals in which we can identify the exoskeleton easily are Crabs, Scorpions, Snails, Beetles and so on.

Examples for Animals with backbones can be Fishes, Turtles, Snakes, Mice, Humans, Simply Vertebrates(Vertebrates: A scientific way of telling animals that they have backbones).

How Do Snakes find, catch and swallow their Prey?

Snakes do not have ears like us. Instead of ears, they have a sensory ear bone that can detect vibrations and this organ is  called the columella. They use their fork tongues, to detect smells that aids in locating the prey. The same tongue is also responsible to stay away from enemies.

Snake eyes do not move or rotate inside their head like it will happen in most of the animals, and they do not have common eyelids. Some snakes have temperature sensing organs in their head, that is usually located near to their eyes that allows them to detect variation in temperature and thus can decide prey is approaching them or going away from them and so on.

Some snakes have poison or venom to paralyse the prey, in order to catch them. These are the organs responsible for finding prey, and catching prey. Later catched prey are swallowed through their expanding mouths and jaws.

What Is The Difference between Venomous and Non-Venomous Snakes?

There are physical features that are helpful in finding whether the snake is Venomous or Non-Venomous snakes. Those are summarised in the table below.

Venomous snakesNon-Venomous snakes
Type of scales after the anal plates areSingle row of scalesDouble row of scales
Shape of headsTriangular shaped headRound shaped head
Type of PupilElliptical pupilRound pupil

17 Interesting Facts About Snakes

  1. Snakes are carnivores in their diet which means they only eat animals not plant and plant matter.
  2. Snakes don’t have eyelids.
  3. Snakes can’t bite or chew their food instead they swallow them whole.
  4. If a snake can manage to pass the food through its mouths then it can pass easily through its body as they have ribs and skin that can expand considerably.
  5. Snakes have forked tongues that can help to detect the smell.
  6. If you bite the venomous snake you may live while if you bite the poisonous snake you’ll die because the poisonous snake has poison throughout its body.
  7. Venomous snakes have fangs(long teeth) meant for injecting venom to its prey, whereas the non-venomous don’t have fangs.
  8. Snake is a Venomous or Non-Venomous is identified by the types of scales after the anal plate. Venomous  snakes have single row of scales after the anal plate, whereas the Non-venomous  snakes have double row of scales after the anal plate.
  9. Venomous  snakes have triangle shaped heads, Whereas the Non-Venomous  snakes have rounded heads.
  10. Venomous snakes have elliptical pupils, Whereas the Non-Venomous  snakes have round pupils.
  11. Snakes have internal ears like us but not the external ears. These internal ears help to detect and process the vibrations.
  12. There are around 3000 different species of snake. in the world.
  13. Snakes are covered in scales and have skin that is smooth and dry.
  14. The big and Non-venomous snakes:
  15. Anacondas are snakes which are found in South America.
  16. Snakes can jump that include paradise flying snakes, and jumping pit viper.
  17. Snakes are the reptiles that don’t have limbs. Simply they are limbless reptiles.


What is the most dangerous snake for humans in the world? The ‘Inland Taipan'(Oxyuranus microlepidotus) or also known as ‘fierce snake’, is one of  the most dangerous snake for humans in the world because it can produce toxin venom that capable killing at least 100 people or 2.5 lakhs mice in one bite It contains 110mg of toxic venom that is the mixture of neurotoxins, procoagulants, and myotoxins.

What If I Bite A Snake? If you bite the venomous snake you may live while if you bite the poisonous snake you’ll die because the poisonous snake has poison throughout its body.

Which snake bite kills fastest? The black mamba (Dendroaspis polylepis) is the fastest snake whose bite can kill a human being in less than 30 minutes.