Rattlesnakes is an excellent predatory and venomous species of snakes which are found in environments like desert, wet swampland or sand dunes. These aggressive creatures are often misunderstood but, they do play a vital role keeping the small animals like small mammal, rodent population controlled and deserve a good place in our Eco system. But, unfortunately some species are considered as endangered due to habitat loss. Here are some facts to help you understand them better.
1. Rattlesnakes belong from a group of venomous snakes known as Crotalus and Sisturus of Crotalinea (pit viper) subfamily. The word Sisturus is Latin form of Greek word, meaning Tail rattler. There are 36 species have been identified among 65-70 sub species of rattlesnakes around United States, Mexico and South America.
2. Their rattle is made out of keratin like our hair and nails are made of. These are consist of several interlocking rings which are hollow, whenever they vibrate the rings knock with each other making the famous rattling sound.
3. Whenever snakes grow, they shed the old skin and go through molting process. The rattlesnakes also do the same but, their body naturally adds an extra ring of keratin on tail while shedding. Previously it was argued that rattlesnake age can be found by counting the rings. But scientists discovered the shedding is not constant for all of the snakes. Some rattlesnakes shed their skin 3 times a year whereas others can do twice depending on their growth. Hence, the rings can not tell their age.
4. Like other snakes they also have inner ear structures without an eardrum, meaning they can’t hear any airborne sound. They rely on sensing the vibration through their jaw bone. Scientists still debate on whether they detect sound by pressure or mechanical vibrations through their body.
5. In the huge variety of these snakes much of them are found in state of Arizona solely, including the Western Diamond backed rattlesnake (the largest species of rattlesnake growing up-to 8 feet in length) as well as the Sidewinder rattlesnake which are known for their horns and side winding movement. Some other species also can be found like the Rock rattlesnake, Ridge nosed rattlesnake, Twin spotted rattlesnake and the Massasauga rattlesnake.
6. All of us know that rattlesnakes do hiss and rattle if threatened, if provoked more then it will bite. But, they don’t seek human. Less than 1% rattlesnakes bites result death and that also if, stepped on them accidentally or trying to handle one. But, it doesn’t make them less dangerous, their bites can be deadly if medication is not applied in time.
7. Like other pit vipers they have sharp, hypodermic needle like fangs which rest against the upper jaw and spring forward while strike. Different species have different venom depending on the use, but they produce both hemotoxin and neurotoxin venom.
8. Rattlesnakes have vertical pupils in their eyes. These characteristic helps them in better depth perception for ambushing in both day and night.
9. They are Ovoviviparous in nature. Females carry eggs inside their body and incubates after 90 days. They give birth of live young in a thin membrane which the babies tear themselves to take the first breath.
10. Rattlesnakes are pit vipers so, they have pit organs to sense heat in complete darkness allowing them to hunt successfully, and they also have Jacobson’s organ to sense taste and smell substances in the air.
11. Adults do eat in every 2 weeks on average as they can catch larger prey, Whereas the babies do eat once in every week. Their diet consists of rodents, lizards, rabbits and birds and the next meal span can depend on the size of prey it devoured.
12. Stepping on rattlesnakes are common as these snakes are not colorful in purpose. They are ambush predators so they need to hide and let the prey come close in striking range. Their dull body color and texture help them to blend in the surrounding.
13. Baby rattlesnakes are more dangerous than adults. They don’t have rattles to warn any upcoming threat as they need at least 2 shedding to make the rattle. But, most importantly adults bite and inject hemotoxin as primary venom whereas the babies don’t have much control over their venom injection. Hence, their venom consists more neurotoxin than hemotoxin which is much more deadly.
14. A beheaded rattlesnake can bite. Yes, after being beheaded the snake’s head is still dangerous as it stays active for hours and can bite, even able to inject lethal dose of venom as they store their venom under their eyes.
15. These snakes can climb trees and able to swim enough fast. But, more interestingly they are Exothermic, in winter they enter a stage known as brumation similar to hibernation where they cuddle with each other to maintain their body heat.
16. Being a good survivalist and successful predator, these snakes are considered as endangered species. The Santa Catalina rattlesnake of Isla Santa Catalina are endangered due to habitat loss, the Long tailed rattlesnake and the Tancitaran Dusky rattlesnake are considered endangered species due to their limited range in Mexico.