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!
Iowa has 28 different species of snakes, including four venomous species. (Read about the venomous snakes of Iowa here.) Most people are familiar with the garter snake, a common type of non-venomous snake, which are harmless to humans. Let’s take a look at the two kinds of garter snakes that are native to Iowa: Plains…Read More
“Does Iowa have any poisonous snakes?” It’s a question that comes up when visitors see our animal ambassador snakes, and the answer is “No.” That might not be what you expected. You see, snakes in North American are not poisonous, they are venomous — which means they inject a toxin rather than secreting a poison…Read More
In honor of my big day today, holding a snake for the first time (you can see the video here), we made a fun snake craft. Whether you love snakes or hate them, this craft is cute and simple. You’ll need: Pipe cleaners Beads Googly eyes Liquid glue Start by selecting what kind of head…Read More
If you find a snakeskin in the wild, it’s usually inside out! When it sheds, it slithers out of its old skin, like pulling a sock off your foot, so it ends up inside out! Watch the video for more information on how and why snakes shed their skin. Check out more of our animal…Read More
Crafts are so much more fun when the end result is actually something to play with rather than just hang on the refrigerator. This paper chain snake that can slither and wiggle is an easy and interactive craft for the snake lovers out there. And if you don’t have snake lovers, call it a caterpillar…Read More
Since this week’s blog post was about how snakes slither, I thought it only appropriate that this week’s craft also be snake related. I will pretty much guarantee that after you make this fun wrist cuff that your child will not take it off for the entire day. Or at least the next five minutes,…Read More
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…Read More
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.Read More
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…Read More