Are Snakes Mammals?

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  • Snakes
Are Snakes Mammals?

All creatures in the animal kingdom, from the smallest flea to the largest elephant and everything in between, belong to one of seven groups. These groups are amphibians, birds, fish, insects, invertebrates, mammals, and reptiles. Where do some of your favorite animals fit into this breakdown? Where do snakes belong? 

Are snakes mammals? Snakes are not mammals. Instead, they are reptiles. Snakes belong to the reptile group because they are cold-blooded and instead of hair (like mammals have), they have scales.  

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How do you tell the difference between the different animal groups? 

Animal Classification
Animal Classification

Here is a break down on the seven different groups of animals in the animal kingdom and some examples of members of this group. 

Amphibians 

Amphibians are animals that are cold-blooded vertebrates (animals with backbones) that do not have scales. Amphibians live both in water and on land. Frogs, toads, axolotls, and salamanders are all amphibians.  

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Birds

Birds are animals that are warm blooded, have feathers, and are vertebrates. Birds are unique because they are the only animals in the world that have feathers! And even though all birds have feathers, not all birds can fly. Penguins, eagles, ducks, geese, owls, robins, and bluebirds are all birds.  

Fish  

Fish are cold blooded vertebrates that live in water. They breathe through a special organ called gills. Sharks, piranhas, clownfish, stingrays, seahorses, and pufferfish are all fish. 

Insects 

Insects are animals that have six legs and an exoskeleton (a hard outer shell) instead of a backbone. Most insects have antennae and wings. Butterflies, mosquitos, ladybugs, bees, and fireflies are all insects.  

Invertebrates

Invertebrates are animals that do not have a backbone. These animals range in size from microscopic to giant. Crabs, spiders, squids, jellyfish, starfish, snails, and octopus are all invertebrates. 

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Mammals 

Mammals are animals that are warm blooded, have hair, and are vertebrates. They also feed their young with milk. Additionally, mammals have the most well developed brains out of any type of animal. Dogs, cats, horses, elephants, dolphins, whales, and humans are all mammals. 

Reptiles 

Reptiles are animals that are cold blooded and are vertebrates. They are also covered with scales or bony plates. Reptiles usually lay eggs that are soft shelled. Snakes, lizards, alligators, crocodiles, turtles, and tortoises are all reptiles.  

How many types of snakes are there?  

There are more than 3,000 types of snakes that are found throughout the entire world. In fact, there is at least one type of snake found on every continent except for Antarctica. Since there are so many different snakes, they all have different sizes and personalities.

For example, the smallest snake in the world is called the thread snake. This snake looks more like an earthworm than a snake and it only grows to be about four inches long! On the other hand, the largest snake in the world is the reticulated python. This snake can grow to be up to 30 feet long! 

Barbados threadsnake (Tetracheilostoma carlae)
Barbados threadsnake (Tetracheilostoma carlae)

Snakes can live in different environments such as deserts, forests, swamps, grasslands, under rocks, in burrows… some snakes even live in water (like the cottonmouth water moccasin that is found both on land and in freshwater in the southeast portion of the United States).

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But with that being said, they do not like the cold. Snakes are cold-blooded, so that means that they cannot regulate their own body temperature. Instead, they get warm by basking in the sun or hibernating underground when it gets cold.  

Are all snakes reptiles? 

All snakes are reptiles! Even sea snakes, which are found solely in marine environments, are considered reptiles. These animals are not to be confused with eels. Even though eels and sea snakes look similar, eels are not reptiles at all. Instead, they’re fish!

Eels are simply elongated fish and they look a little different because they are a bit flatter than a snake and they also have fins (which snakes never have, even if they do live in the water.) 

Eel vs Snake
Eel vs Snake

Are legless lizards snakes? 

There is a type of lizard that is found in Australia and New Guinea that does not have legs. So are they actually snakes? Even though they look like a snake, legless lizards are actually related more closely to lizards. They are simply just lizards who evolved to live life without their limbs. They evolved to have this adaptation due to their burrowing lifestyle.  

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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.

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