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Snakes And Humans

Snakes have fascinated and frightened people for millennia. Some cultures worship snakes, seeing them as creators and protectors, while others fear snakes as devils and symbols of death.

While some people keep snakes as interesting pets, most people harbor an irrational fear of these reptiles. Unfortunately, this attitude leads to the deaths of many harmless snakes. Certainly, a few deadly species of snakes can kill a human, and no snake should be handled unless positively identified as harmless. However, the estimated risk of a person suffering a bite from a venomous snake in the United States is 20 times less than being struck by lightning—this is an extremely small risk. Snakes are useful predators, helping to reduce populations of pest rats and mice. A well-educated, healthy respect for snakes is a benefit to both snakes and humans.

See also Elapid snakes.



Mattison, Christopher. Snakes of the World. New York: Facts on File, 1986.

Pinney, Roy. The Snake Book. New York: Doubleday, 1981.

Roberts, Mervin F. A Complete Introduction to Snakes. Neptune City, NJ: T. F. H. Publications, 1987.

Seigel, Richard A., and Joseph T. Collins. Snakes: Ecology and Behavior. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1993.


Angeletti, L.R., et al. "Healing Rituals and Sacred Serpents." The Lancet 340 (25 July 1992): 223-25.

Diamond, Jared. "Dining with Snakes." Discover (April 1994): 48-59.

Schwenk, Kurt. "Why Snakes Have Forked Tongues." Science 263 (18 March 1994): 1573-77.

Marie L. Thompson


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—A flesh-eating animal.


—A cold-blooded animal, whose internal body temperature is similar to that of its environment. Ectotherms produce little body heat, and are dependent on external sources (such as the sun) to keep their body temperature high enough to function efficiently.

Jacobson's organs

—Chemical sensors located on the palate of a snake, and used to detect chemical "smells."


—To shed a outer layer of skin (epidermis) at regular intervals.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Adam Smith Biography to Spectroscopic binarySnakes - Evolution, Snakes And Humans - Appearance and behavior