One of the biggest mysteries in life for people with even the slightest interest in nature is how snakes give birth. It’s a puzzle. Do they lay eggs like birds? Do they act like mammals? It’s a conundrum.
There are three types of snakes. Oviparous, viviparous, and ovoviviparous. Each category has a different way of bringing baby snakes to the world. The first behaves more like eggs as it lays eggs in a nest and waits for them to hatch. The second develops the baby snakes inside its body and gives birth like a cat or a dog. The last type is rather curious. It lays eggs but instead of keeping them in a nest, it holds the eggs inside its body until they hatch.
As we said, it’s a curious case as far as snakes are concerned. No doubt you’ll be looking at your pet snake and wondering which type of snake it is. We’re here to answer that question and uncover this mystery once and for all.
Oviparous snakes are more like birds. After they mate, the female starts to lay eggs in a nest and looks after them until they hatch. It’s kind of interesting to watch a snake lay eggs although it’s rare that the female will let you watch. It’s as painful as you can imagine and leaves the snake vulnerable to predators. So she will choose a safe and dark place to lay her eggs.
The majority of snakes in the world fall under this category. The list is long and exhaustive so we’ll just mention the most well-known ones. These include slender blind snakes, family Elapidae, rat snakes, grass snakes, cobras, grass snakes, adders, king snakes, as well as 70 percent of snakes. Like we said it’s a long list. If you have a snake, most likely it falls under this category.
Oviparous snakes are most nocturnal and seek loose soil as nests. They don’t build nests from twigs and feathers like birds. Rather, a pit surrounded with rocks to keep the eggs from rolling out of the nest will do just fine for them. The place has to be warm to help the fetus develop.
The other 30 percent of snakes fall under the viviparous and ovoviviparous categories. Let’s start with the viviparous snakes. These are snakes that give birth to live and fully developed baby snakes just the way a cow or a mare would do. If you live in a farm you probably know what a big deal having your cow give birth means.
For snakes, though, it’s not a big deal. A female snake will have a batch of babies grow inside her and when they’re fully developed she will give birth to them in a dark cave away from predators. This category includes boas, garter snakes, and rattlesnakes as just a few examples. The curious thing here is that the new born snake babies are also covered in a thin membrane the same way a foal is. So it’s safe to say that snakes that give live birth are in every way a mammal except that they don’t suckle their offspring.
If the idea of a snake giving live birth to a baby snake seems outlandish, wait until you hear about the ovoviviparous snakes. These have the best of two worlds. They lay eggs and give birth at the same time. How is that even possible? Well, it’s simple, really.
First the snakes develop eggs. But instead of pushing the eggs out into a nest in a dark cave somewhere, they keep the eggs inside their bodies. Some frogs do that. If you see a female frog with a swollen belly, she isn’t having flatulence, she just carries her eggs inside. So what advantage does this give snakes?
It protects the eggs from breaking or being eaten by predators. As long as the eggs are inside her and she’s alive and healthy, the chances of her offspring’s survival grow exponentially. Ovoviviparous snakes include green anacondas, boa constrictors, and marine file snakes which live across the whole of Asia.
Once the eggs have developed and hatched, the female snake gives birth to them and discards the empty eggs shells out of her body. To a lay person it may look like the snake just gave live birth to her babies, but the truth is they just hatched inside of her. It’s a subtle difference and you need to be an expert to tell which type is which and why.
Do Baby Snakes Stay with Their Mother Snake After Birth?
One thing about snakes is that they’re not sociable animals. After all the trouble the female snake goes through, finding a suitable mate, looking for a perfect place to lay her eggs or even carrying the eggs inside of her for months, and when it’s finally time for the babies to come out and say hello to the world, they part ways.
You read that right. Once the babies are out of the eggs or their mother’s womb, she will have nothing to do with them. Is that cruel? Not really. It doesn’t mean the snake is cold hearted either. It just means the babies come to the world fully developed and ready to deal with life from day one. Humans on the other hand are powerless and helpless things that need plenty of care from the mother until they can fend for themselves.
So, no. the baby snakes leave their mother and start looking for food and shelter while fending off predators from the moment they hatch. This is why the first thing a baby snake does is to crawl away in a different direction from the rest of its siblings. The life of the snake is tough, no doubt about it.
How Do Snakes Reproduce?
The answer to this question is the same as the topic of the article. To reproduce, a female snake needs to mate with a male snake to fertilize her eggs if she’s oviparous. Like we said the majority of snakes fall under this category.
After the female eggs are fertilized, the snake would lay them in a dark and warm place. It has to be dry so that fungus and bugs don’t damage the eggs. The incubation period varies from one breed to the next. Some only take a couple of weeks while others take a few months. We’ll elaborate on that in the next section.
How Long Do Snakes Take to Give Birth?
To get a clear answer to this question, you need to know what category of snakes are we talking about and what breed. Oviparous snakes, the one that lay eggs in nests, are the quickest to develop and hatch. Why is that? Because the eggs out in the open are at the mercy of predators. So the faster the baby develops the better its chances of survival.
Viviparous snakes are the slowest snakes to develop. They usually take months for the pregnant female to finally give live birth. The logic here is the same. Inside the mother’s womb, the snakes are perfectly safe and can take their time to develop fully before they face the hardships of a cruel world.
Do Snakes Carry Their Babies in Their Mouth?
The short answer is no. We’re talking about snakes not seahorses. Even viviparous and ovoviviparous snakes have a specific place to keep the progeny or eggs inside their body. The first group has a womb just like any other mammal. That’s where the undeveloped fetus grows and develops in safety.
Once the babies are fully developed, the mother will not have anything to do with them. They become total strangers and will fight over food later on if they happen to cross paths. That’s the law of the jungle. We can’t judge how other species go about their lives from our own narrow perspective.
Why Do Snakes Eat Their Babies?
That’s a myth. If you see a snake eating a baby snake then chances are this is not the biological mother and the adult snake is really really hungry. Cobras and garter snakes guard their eggs which means there’s no way the mother will go through all this trouble only to eat her own babies when they hatch. That goes against the laws of nature.
But if a snake is hungry and happens to see another smaller snake it wouldn’t hesitate to eat it. We see it all the time in the sea world. Bigger fish eat smaller fish all the time. So why wouldn’t snakes act the same?
How Does a Python Give Birth?
Pythons follow the 70 percent of snakes that lay eggs. In that respect pythons are oviparous. The difference is, female pythons will keep guard over their eggs and keep them warm until the eggs hatch.