Just because they work for a conservation board doesn't mean that naturalists know everything.

Just last week, naturalist Ashley Hansen was feeding Rosie the corn snake when she noticed a hole open up in the snake's mouth while it was eating a mouse --- the Dickinson County Nature Center snakes are fed mice that are frozen and then thawed as food.

Watch this video to see what Ashley saw.

She wasn't sure what the hole was, so we started to research it --- the best way to answer a question that you have --- and found out the hole in the bottom of a snake's mouth is a glottis.

Snakes have nostrils, just like humans, and they breathe through them and use them to smell. However, their best sense of smell comes from using their tongue, and they can also breathe through their mouths, like humans, by using their glottis.

The glottis is the opening in the bottom of a snake's mouth that is kept closed except when inhaling. It is connected to the trachea, or windpipe, which lets the air that is inhaled fill its lungs.

The glottis is extremely helpful, because when a snake is eating, it can move its glottis off to the side so that its prey does not prevent it from opening and allows the snake to still breath while it is eating. It's like chewing with your mouth open --- it's bad manners for people, but not for snakes!

A small piece of cartilage inside the glottis vibrates when the snake forcefully breathes out, and this is what makes the characteristic hiss that most people think of when they think of snakes. It's not the snake's tongue at all!

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Besides their forked tongues, probably the main thing that creeps people out about snakes is their ability to move without legs or feet. (The reason a snake sticks out its tongue, and why it’s forked.) I have to say, before I started working at the Dickinson County Nature Center, back when I was still petrified…

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Feeding the nature center snakes

The naturalists make sure to wash their hands after handling the mice before picking up the snakes. They don’t want the snakes to associate people with food or being let out of their enclosures with food either so that they don’t expect to be fed every time the enclosure door is opened.

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The reason a snake sticks out its tongue

Why do snakes stick out their tongues at you? Have you ever seen this? You’ve been looking at one of the snake animal ambassadors at the nature center, and one of them sticks out her black tongue and flicks it around. She is smelling you! The snake’s tongue has a fork on the end of…

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