Grass snake

Grass snake

A type of snake with a characteristic spot on its neck.

Biology

Keywords

grass snake, snakes, keratin scale, diurnal lifestyle, hibernation, skin, soft-shelled egg, vertebrates, reptile, predator, animal, biology

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Scenes

Grass snake

The grass snake is completely harmless to humans. It can easily be identified by the light-yellow crescent-shaped spots on both sides of its oval-shaped head. Its most important sense organ is the forked tongue. It flicks its tongue out to smell and collect information about its surrounding environment.

It hunts for fish and frogs, but it also feeds on rodents, baby birds and eggs.

Swimming

The grass snake moves swiftly on land and is also an excellent swimmer. It swims with its head out of the water. Its flexibility and speed are due to the snake's flexible spine and the muscles between its ribs.

Anatomy

  • frontal shields - Modified, thickened scales.
  • neck spot - It differentiates the grass snake from the European viper. This spot is usually yellow, but it may be white or red, or occasionally it might be missing.
  • dry skin covered with scales - Scales play an important role in reducing evaporation, which made it possible for snakes to spread from water to dry land during the evolution.
  • eyes with round pupils - They differentiate the grass snake from the European viper, which has vertical pupils.
  • Lenght: max. 1.5 m

Its dry, scaly skin is perfectly adapted to life on land. Its role is to protect the animal from drying out and against mechanical injuries. The snake sheds its skin in one piece.

Its body temperature changes according to the temperature of its environment. In autumn, it goes into hibernation in a frost-free place.

Its ribs are not joined to form a chest, therefore the free end of its ribs also help the movement on the ground.

Internal organs

  • trachea
  • tracheal lungs - Additional respiratory organs attached to the trachea.
  • liver - It plays an important role in removing toxins, storing nutrients (glycogen) and removing old red blood cells. It also produces bile, which emulsifies fat drops in the mid-gut to increase their surface area and thereby aiding their digestion.
  • oesophagus - Its wave-like contractions (peristalsis) propel food into the stomach.
  • heart - This organ of snakes contains four chambers: two atria and two ventricles. The wall separating the atria is not complete, thus blood in the right atrium, rich in carbon dioxide mixes with the oxygen-rich blood content of the left atrium.
  • rudimentary left lung
  • right lung - The left lung is usually undeveloped in snakes, only the elongated right lung functions.
  • pancreas - It produces pancreatic juice, which contains digestive enzymes. The pancreatic juice is secreted into the intestine.
  • intestine - Food is digested and nutrients are absorbed here.
  • testicles - Snakes are usually dioecious, they reproduce internally. Testicles produce sperm, which fertilise the egg inside the female snake's body.
  • kidneys - They remove waste and toxins from the body.
  • cloaca - The common opening for the intestinal, reproductive, and urinary tracts of certain animal species. Faeces, urine, semen (in males) are excreted through it; females also lay eggs through the cloaca. The presence of the cloaca is typical for vertebrates except mammals.
  • spleen - Its functions include storing blood, storing immune cells until they are mature, and breaking down old red blood cells.

Its small, backwards-curved teeth help the snake to seize and take hold of its prey. The snake can open its mouth very wide, and it has an expandable throat. Its ability to widely open its mouth is due to the elastic fibres that connect the bones of its jaw. It swallows its prey whole.

It breathes through lungs. The grass snake is dioecious, it reproduces internally. The female lays 20–30 soft-shelled eggs in damp areas or forest floor. The young snakes develop without undergoing metamorphosis while they shed their skin several times. If threatened, the snake defends by secreting a foul-smelling substance from the anal glands located in the cloaca.

Animation

Narration

The grass snake is completely harmless to humans. It can be easily identified by the light-yellow crescent-shaped spots on both sides of its oval-shaped head. Its most important sense organ is the forked tongue. It flicks its tongue out to smell and collect information about its surroundings.
It hunts for fish and frogs, but it also feeds on rodents, baby birds and eggs.

The grass snake moves swiftly on land and is also an excellent swimmer. It swims with its head out of the water. Its flexibility and speed are due to the snake’s flexible spine and the muscles between its ribs.

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