Animals are classified as either vertebrates or invertebrates depending on whether they have a backbone or not. Like most invertebrates, snakes are soft and flexible, so many people tend to misclassify them. So, as a snake lover or owner, you may wish to know if these creatures have bones in their bodies, and if so, how many they are.
So, do snakes have bones in their body? Snakes have bones in their bodies, given that they are members of the reptile family, which are vertebrates. Therefore, they have a backbone, and have other bones attached throughout their bodies. Depending on your snake’s species, it can have 300-1800 bones, the majority being vertebrae and ribs. As much as the snake has more bones than other mammals, they only have three types of bones: the skull, jaw, and backbone.
We delve into the snakes’ anatomy to understand whether they have bones in their flexible bodies. We also further explain what happens with the bones they swallow and whether they can survive with a broken back. Read on.
How Many Bones Do Snakes Have in Their Body?
Based on their appearance, one may easily liken the snake to other boneless creatures like worms. Their bodies are soft, and they are very flexible whenever they move or feed; therefore, the misconception is that they are also boneless. The truth is that snakes are vertebrates; so they have a backbone and other small bones in their bodies.
So, how many bones do snakes have in their body? Snakes have 600-1800 bones based on their respective species. Besides, they have three bones: the skull, jaw, and backbone, where most bones form the ribs while the skull and jaw only have up to 10 bones. However, the number of bones a snake possesses depends on the species, length, and size. For instance, a small one (around 10 cm) may have approximately 200 vertebrae and an equal number of ribs. However, a giant snake, like a python, can possess around 600 vertebrae (or a total of 1800 bones).
A snake’s skeleton is quite simple; it has no limbs, but only a skull linked to the rest of the body. The backbone has hundreds of other vertebrae bones that run through to the tail’s tip, and thanks to these small ribs, the snake becomes flexible enough to move on a surface quickly. While mammals such as humans have around 33 vertebrae and only 24 ribs, the snake possesses approximately 200-600 vertebrae and hundreds of ribs attached.
These many bones are necessary for the snakes to survive. Together with potent muscles, the hundreds of bones help protect the snakes’ delicate internal organs. Also, being flexible, they help the snake when it needs to feed since they can effortlessly constrict their prey and consequently crush it in the process.
Moreover, thanks to their flexible and loose jaws, they can feed on animals bigger than their head or bodies. And with such big meals, the snakes can go days without eating again, so it can survive for a long time even when food is scarce.
Do Snakes Poop Out Bones?
Snakes can prey on bigger meals, thanks to their loose jaws and flexible bodies. While smaller snakes will comfortably feed on smaller animals like birds and rats, larger snakes can feed on bigger prey like deer. Since the snakes swallow their meals whole, one lingering question may be what happens to the bones during and after digestion.
So, do snakes poop out bones? Snakes do not poop out bones because they have an elaborate digestive system able to dissolve the bones and turn them into essential nutrients. First, they have potent digestive enzymes and acids that help in digestion. Secondly, they have a strong stomach, unlike other animals, hence, they can consume an entire animal, and the resulting excretion will be normal poop and not whole bones. However, although rare, you may still notice traces of bones that missed digestion.
The prey stays inside the snake’s stomach for days allowing the enzymes and acids to act on the bones. What helps the snakes is the strong stomach acids and enzymes, with some snake’s stomach pH dropping to as low as below two. Since they can devour much bigger animals than they are, the food stays longer in their stomachs, providing adequate time for the acids and enzyme to act.
The muscular stomach lining also helps the snake to push the food down into its stomach manually. The strong muscles also assist in the digestion of bone and flesh. It pushes digested bones into the small intestine, where absorption occurs since the bones are vital for the snake’s calcium to build up. Moreover, the snake’s body muscles are thick and robust to stretch further to accommodate the prey’s bones.
Since the snakes take considerable time to devour their meals, consuming the skull bone won’t be a difficult fete. However, it may take a little more time to digest than the other parts of the prey’s body. But the quality time that the snake takes to chew its prey allows it to absorb a considerable amount of calcium through the gut.
Snakes produce high amounts of catalysts and acids that can penetrate the prey’s body than other reptiles. For instance, Venomous snakes start to digest the prey’s bones immediately after a bite on the head. It is because the venom contains digestive enzymes similar to those in the stomach.
Finally, as much as the snake’s digestive system is elaborate and has vital enzymes, other substances are indigestible. These include keratin substances such as fur and feathers, which can pass through their digestive tracts.
Can a Snake Survive With a Broken Back?
Unlike mammals, snakes move by contracting their body muscles and not their bones since they don’t have limbs. They also have a wide belly with scales that enables them to grip the ground, thereby easing their movements. However, injuring a snake at the back may cause certain complications.
So, can a snake survive with a broken back? Snakes can live with a broken back depending on where it is hurt. First, a broken back at the vital organs can consequently lead to death. If, for instance, someone runs over a snake, it may not easily exhibit injury signs. Instead, it will just slither away. However, if the injury is severe, it will survive for some time but succumb later. Luckily, if a snake survives such an injury, it can heal, but it will remain crooked and lose its natural shape. Also, the injury may interfere with its typical locomotion.
If you are a snake keeper whose snake has an injured spine, it would be best to act fast to alleviate the situation. It would be best to look out for any changes such as difficulty in the movement since a broken back may be the primary cause. By consulting with your vet, you would know what to do about the situation.
All reptiles, including snakes, are vertebrates, meaning that they have a backbone. Therefore, it is time to refute the myths that suggest that the snake is boneless. As much as they resemble other creatures like worms in terms of flexibility, the snake is different. It has hundreds of bones running from its skull to the tip of its tail. One incredible fact is that the bones are soft; hence they can stretch to accommodate large meals, even larger than their bodies.
Besides, the snakes have strong stomach muscles and enzymes for digestion. Therefore, they can quickly dissolve bones from their meals, so it is rare to find them excreting whole bones. Lastly, the snake is a very resilient animal, able to survive injuries like a broken back. Due to these and more reasons, the snake remains one of the most incredible reptiles on earth.