International Day of snakes is celebrated on July 16. The holiday was created to tell people about these amazing neighbors on the planet and about the contribution they make to our world.
Snakes inhabit most of our planet with the exception of the tundra, the islands of the Arctic Ocean, Antarctica, New Zealand, Ireland and some small islands in the Atlantic Ocean and the central Pacific Ocean. In addition, there are no sea snakes in the Atlantic Ocean at all!
Nowadays science knows more than 3.9 thousand species of snakes. Depending on the species, snakes come in different sizes. The smallest - the Barbados narrow-necked snake, leading a burrowing lifestyle, does not exceed a length of 10.4 cm. Such snakes as anaconda and the largest species of pythons can exceed 6 m in length. The mass of snakes also changes, starting from about 10 g and reaching 100 kg. Males are usually slightly smaller than females.
The shape of the snake's body is also surprising. Some tree snakes have an extremely narrow and long body, and some African vipers have a short and very thick body. Snakes that live in the tropical seas of the Indian and Pacific Oceans often have a body flattened from the sides, almost ribbon-shaped.
Among the large number of snakes, more than 500 species can be classified as truly venomous. Such snakes use poison for hunting in order to quickly kill prey, but in extreme situations they are able to use it for self-defense. Their venomous teeth are located in the front of the mouth, which allows a quick bite. Nonpoisonous snakes behave differently with the victim: they either swallow their prey alive (snakes), or preliminarily strangle it (snakes, boas). Among poisonous snakes, the most dangerous Taipan McCoy from Australia is considered, the poison of one of its individuals is enough to kill 100 people. Compared to the venom of the cobra, it is 180 times stronger. In the fauna of Ukraine, there are only two types of poisonous vipers: steppe and common (which has a forest-steppe subspecies - Nikolsky's viper).
Snakes play an important role in nature. They are a link in the food chains of different biogeocenoses. Snakes often become prey for some predatory lizards, mammals and birds, at the same time they themselves feed on invertebrates (molluscs, worms, insects) and small vertebrates (fish, amphibians, lizards, birds and mammals). Snakes can serve as food for game animals (ferrets, foxes). In addition, snakes play the role of a kind of orderlies of land and water biogeocenoses, destroying epidemiologically dangerous rodents, as well as sick and weakened animals.
In Asia, Latin America and Africa, people use the meat of these reptiles as a gastronomic delicacy. Various products (shoes, bags, etc.) are made from the skin of snakes, and they are also used in European medicine. For this reason, many species of snakes are protected by international law and are included in the international and regional Red Books. So, the following types of snakes are included in the Red Book of Ukraine: common copper snake, forest snake (aesculapius snake), leopard snake, Pallas snake, patterned snake and steppe viper. That is, the vast majority of snake species of the domestic fauna needs urgent protection measures.