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South Africa—Green tree pythons coil when comfortable. Though this snake is a pet in Pretoria, the species is native to northern Australia and New Guinea. In the wild its coloration lends cover for a life spent mostly in trees.
Photo by Martin Harvey, Corbis
India—Children of the many snake charmers in the village of Padmakesharpur are no strangers to cobras. Early encounters with defanged or devenomed snakes help the babies grow up fearless.
Photo by Adrian Fisk, Digital Railroad
Mozambique Spitting Cobra
The Mozambique spitting cobra can eject venom up to 8 feet (2.4 meters) away. It spits from any position, raised or on the ground, and often goes for the eyes. Untreated, its venom can cause blindness. Considered the most dangerous snake after the mamba, the spitting cobra sometimes feigns death to avoid molestation.
Photograph by Beverly Joubert
Named for the color of the inside of its mouth, the black mamba strikes repeatedly with venomous fangs. Widely considered the world’s deadliest snake, it continues to take human life in its native habitats in southern and eastern Africa, despite the development of antivenin. A resident of rocky hills and grasslands, the black mamba is also among the fastest snakes in the world, moving at up to 12.5 miles (20 kilometers) per hour.
Photograph by Tim Laman
While some snakes spend the winter gathered in dens, they disperse widely the rest of the year, making it difficult to find food or mates. To survive, snakes have evolved the forked tongue. They use it to collect scent molecules, which they process within special organs, to discern whether they are nearing a food item or a deadly foe. Male snakes can also judge whether a female snake is of the same species, how ready she is to mate, and—from the intensity of the scents on each fork—in which direction she is moving.
Snake Emerging From Egg
Photograph by Mike Guzman
A green tree python, native to the rain forests of New Guinea and northeastern Australia, emerges from its shell. Most newborn snakes, which must free themselves from tough, leathery eggs, come armed with a single egg tooth, located on their head or snout. The egg tooth is used to tear through the shell and is discarded when the snake first sheds its skin. Thirty percent of snakes, however, give birth to live young. Egg-laying snakes usually live in warmer climates, which helps incubate their eggs.
Photograph by Claus Meyer/Minden Pictures
Awkward on land but agile in water, the anaconda lives in the swamps and tropical rain forests of South America. This green anaconda is the largest of several varieties; in fact, it is the largest snake in the world by weight, capable of reaching 550 pounds (250 kilograms) and measuring 12 inches (30 centimeters) in diameter. With flexible jaws and muscular bodies, these nonvenomous constrictors squeeze their prey to death and swallow it whole—whether it’s a bird, a wild pig, or a jaguar.
Photograph by Mattias Klum
King cobras avoid humans, but when cornered they can deliver enough venom in their bite to kill 20 people. They can also move forward while looking a 6-foot-tall (1.8-meter-tall) person in the eye, a third of their body raised up off the ground. Found in India, southern China, and Southeast Asia, king cobras are the only snakes in the world to build nests for their eggs.
Photographer: Robin Moore
A blue viper from the Sierra Caral of Guatemala
Green Mambas in the jungle forest
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