Do snakes have bones?

Snakes have three specific type of bones, the skull, the vertebrae and the ribs, but the way a snake can wrap itself in a coil and swallow objects up to three times its circumference, would make you question whether it even has a backbone or a jawbone or even ribs. Some snakes like the boas and pythons, have hip bones and vestiges of hind legs. In fact, snakes have bones in the range of 400 to 1,800 depending on its species and length. The longer a snake, the more bones it would have, unlike humans who can only have up to 206 bones which vary in size and length.

The skull of a snake is made of many different types of bones that are loosely connected but entirely encapsulates the brain. The jaw bones are also attached to the skull through a very elastic ligament and consists of four parts. These four parts, 2 parts on the lower and 2 on the upper, are not merged together, but are also attached with the stretchy ligament tissue. This enables the 4 parts to move independently of each other, vertically, horizontally and alternatively on each side. Snakes can open their mouths so wide that some unsuspecting prey mistakenly walk straight in.

While they do have pointed teeth known as fangs, they are curved backward and are not suitable for chewing. Instead, they swallow their prey whole. When swallowing their prey, the snake would move one side of its jaw and then the other, latching on to the prey with its teeth to paralyze or prevent it from escaping. Some snakes have poisonous venom which they located in small sacs behind its eyes. When the snake bites down on its prey, the venom is released through the teeth which are connected to these sacs, and either paralyzes or kills its victims instantaneously. The snake would then draw each side of its jaw backward, pulling its victim toward the back of its throat.

Snakes are vertebrates and all vertebrates have a backbone. This backbone or vertebrae is connected directly to the brain and moves all the way down to the tail end of the snake. The longer the snake, the longer its vertebrae, also known as spine or spinal cord. The spines of snakes are so flexible that they can wrap themselves up like accordions. The longer the backbone of a snake, the more agile it is. However, there is a saying that if a snake is chasing you, run in a zig-zag movement so that it would break its backbone.

Humans have 12 pairs of ribs but snakes have several hundreds, the longer a snake is, the more ribs it contains. The ribs run in pairs and are attached to each vertebra which stem from 200 to 400. Each rib extends in an outward direction and are not joined to each other. There are no breastbones either which is how snakes can swallow very large carcasses. Their skin and muscles are made very thick and strong to protect their internal organs and bone structure and enable them to move at very fast speeds.

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