Do Snakes Blink?

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Snakes are reptiles that lack many features that other animals have, including legs. Humans have misunderstood snakes for as long as they have coexisted. One of the questions many people have is whether snakes blink. They do not. This article explains why.

Features

  • Snakes don't blink because they lack eyelids. However, their eyes have protection in the form of a layer of transparent skin called brille. This skin doesn't move and is shed along with a snake's skin and replaced by a new one. A snake's brille is clear except when the animal is preparing to moult, or shed, its own skin. Then it appears cloudy and is easily seen. Snakes are not the only animal with this adaptation, as some lizards and fish also have it.

Function

  • Snakes' eyesight varies. Snakes that live in trees and shrubs, for example, have excellent eyesight. Those that burrow into the ground for shelter and hunt at night have poor vision.

Misconceptions

  • Many myths and misconceptions are connected to snakes. One related to snakes being unable to blink involves the belief that snakes can charm or hypnotize their prey. However, birds and small mammals that appear to be rendered helpless by a snake are either unable to recognize it as a danger, frozen still in an effort to avoid detection, or too afraid to move.

Considerations

  • Eyelids are not the only feature snakes lack that many other animals have. Snakes use their tongues to "smell," as they have no nose. The tongue constantly flicks in and out of its mouth, collecting particles from the air and bringing them into contact with specialized organs in the mouth that examine them and tell the snake what they belong to. Snakes also have no ears, instead using an incredible sensitivity to vibrations in the ground to determine what is going on around them.

Potential

  • California ground squirrels have learned how to use the rattlesnake's poor eyesight to their advantage. They have been observed rubbing and eating pieces of shredded snake skin. This ruse can fool a rattler, as it depends on its sense of smell to locate the squirrel. The ploy covers the squirrel with the smell of a snake and thus tricks the snake into not realizing a meal is nearby.

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