Are Snakes Blind? (Why do they have eyes then?)

Are Snakes Blind?

You might have heard the myth that snakes are blind. But is that true or a completely made-up rumor? We’ll take a look at how well the snake’s five senses (sight, smell, hearing, taste, and touch) are and some other related and fascinating information.  

Are snakes blind? 

While snakes are not fully blind, they do have very poor eyesight! For the most part, snakes can only see basic shapes, and they cannot see any of the object’s details. Scientists believe that snakes evolved not to be able to see very well because they are burrowers and because since they spend a lot of time in the dark, they do not need to rely on their eyesight for their main sense.  

Can any snakes see well? 

One snake, called the pit viper, can see well – but only at night! These snakes have one “pit” on either side of their head. These pits sense heat, and they serve as something like night vision goggles for the snake. It is even thought that the pits, as opposed to their eyes, are what sends messages to the snake’s brain of where the prey is located. 

Why do snakes stick out their tongues? 

Why do snakes stick out their tongues?
Why do snakes stick out their tongues?

Interestingly enough, snakes stick out their tongues as a result of their bad eyesight! Since snakes cannot see well, they have developed another sense- their sense of smell! They use their tongue to get a sense of their surroundings.

Snakes will “taste” the air around them to get a better idea of their surroundings. Snakes have an excellent sense of smell, and they use their tongue to pick up scents in the air.  

When a snake sticks out its tongue, it collects minuscule particles floating through the air. Then the tongue goes to Jacobson’s organ, a special organ located at the top of their mouth.

The forked tongue fits perfectly into the two holes in the Jacobson’s organ. Then it will send a signal to the snake’s brain, where the scent will be transformed into information that the snake can use. For example, the scent may signal to the snake that there is a mouse nearby, and then the snake will be able to hunt its prey.  

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Are snakes the only animals with Jacobson’s organ? 

Are snakes the only animals with Jacobson's organ?
Are snakes the only animals with Jacobson’s organ?

Jacobson’s organ is also known as the vomeronasal organ. This organ is found in a few other animals throughout the world. Salamanders, lemurs, elephants, painted turtles, horses, cows, and pigs all have this organ that helps them smell things better.

Cats also have it! Cats will do something called the Flehmen response to inhale scent molecules to this organ directly – you may notice your pet cat doing this when they wrinkle their nose, lift their lips, and cease to breathe for a second or two. I know my cats do it often, and it’s very funny to look at!

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Are snakes deaf? 

Just like how snakes cannot see well, they also cannot hear very well. This is because snakes do not have any eardrums. While they are missing this important hearing mechanism, snakes do have inner ears, which allow them to pick up some sounds and ground-borne vibrations.

This sense of hearing is limited, though, and snakes will have a hard time hearing sounds that have a higher pitch.  

Do snakes have a good sense of taste? 

We have learned that snakes have a good sense of smell but a bad sense of hearing and sight… But what about a snake’s sense of taste? A snake’s tongue has only a limited amount of taste buds, so their sense of taste is not great. Snakes instead use their tongue to collect the scents around them to find out where their prey is.  

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Can snakes feel things? 

Do snakes have a good sense of touch? While snakes do not have hands and cannot feel things the same way we can, snakes have a highly developed sense of touch! This is because the snake’s long body is touching the ground most of the time. And a snake’s body has many tactile receptors that are very sensitive to any changes in its environment!  

Related Questions

Can a blind snake bite?

Blind snakes can attack and bite prey or even people when they feel threatened just like a regular snake would. Although they can’t see you, they can use their tongue and other senses to figure out where you are and even bite you in the process.

Is there a snake with no eyes?

Even blind snakes have eyes, but they’re hidden under opaque scales so it seems they are missing completely. One such snake is Indotyphlops braminus, commonly known as the brahminy blind snake. It’s found mostly in Africa and Asia and is a type of non-venomous blind snake.

How can you tell if a snake is blind?

It’s really hard to tell if a snake is blind as they can “see” you with their extremely tuned senses. They could also miss their prey and strike beside it instead of catching it head-on.

What causes a snake to go blind?

Bacteria can cause snakes to go blind. When a snake doesn’t shed properly and scales and spectacles are left unshed, bacteria can infect the eye and make the snake go blind or even take the eye completely.

Can snakes recognize their owners?

Over time, snakes are definitely able to distinguish between people and even recognize their owners when they see or smell them. If you think they aren’t capable of making connections with humans just ask any long-time snake owner.

Do snake’s eyes glow in the dark?

A major study found that snakes match their vision to their lifestyles. That means that snakes that hunt during the night and tend to see better do have a slight glow in the dark in their eyes. Snakes generally have poor eyesight so that glow would also be tiny.

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Adrian Volenik

I've lived around animals my whole life and I hold a Diploma in Animal Physiology. When I'm not reading or writing about wild animals, health and fitness, and technology, you can find me playing with my son and two cats. My pastimes include running, playing video games, and solving the NY Times crossword.