Do snakes have a backbone? Do all snakes have bones?

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Do snakes have a backbone?

Yes, snakes do have a backbone. All of the species of snakes have a backbone which is also known as the vertebral column.

Their body is very flexible and they can crawl super easily due to many vertebrae (small bones that form the backbone).

Animals with bones are known as vertebrates, and snakes are all vertebrates. A snake’s backbone is made up of many vertebrae attached to ribs, thus giving the body its shape and flexibility.

Snakes have a backbone because they are Chordates and belong to the Sub-Phylum Vertebrata and Class Reptilia of the Animal Kingdom.

Snakes are Chordates and so are included in the Phylum Chordata of the Animal Kingdom and so are characterized by the presence of the notochord (a skeletal rod), dorsal tubular nerve cord (spinal cord and brain), gill slits seen during their embryonic development inside the egg.

Snakes are Vertebrates and so are included in the Sub-Phylum Vertebrata of the Animal Kingdom and so are characterized by the presence of a bony vertebral column which is also known as the backbone.

Snakes are Reptiles and so are included in the Class Reptilia of the Animal Kingdom and so are characterized due to their slithering and crawling locomotory movement due to the presence of the backbone and other bones present in their body.


So, Do snakes have a backbone? After reading all these reasons, you can surely say that snakes do have a flexible backbone.

The spine (backbone) is their body’s central support structure and firmly connects the different parts of their skeleton to each other. It is situated at their dorsal part of the body from the neck (just after the skull) to the tail tip.

Although the spine is made up of a chain of bones, it is flexible due to elastic ligaments and spinal disks.

Snake Skeleton System with Backbone
Snake Skeleton System with Backbone

How is the movement in a snake related to the flexibility of its backbone?

Snakes move by crawling, or you can better say by slithering. Snakes slither to move around because they have no legs and so they strictly rely on their muscles and scales and their flexible backbone for movement.

In the case of humans, we have around 33 vertebrates (small bones) attached to our 12 pairs of ribs.

But, here in the case of snakes, they have around 100 to 450 vertebrae in the body and 10 to 205 vertebrae in the tail. A pair of ribs is associated with each body vertebra except for a few immediately behind the head.

That is what makes their body so flexible and helps them move along very smoothly and rapidly without any issue. But, we humans can’t because we have fewer vertebrates as compared to that of the snakes.

Owing to the flexibility of the backbone, this free, tensile, and elastic mobility is transferred to the ribs and muscles and the scales overall hence allowing the snake to move.

If the backbone (spine) and ribs serves as the endoskeleton then the scales serve as the exoskeleton helping in movement.

The scales on a snake are made from a material called keratin. That’s the same material that makes up human fingernails. They help the snake move on different surfaces.

Almost the entire skeletal construction of a snake is spine and ribs, with the exception of their small tail with only spines, and head without any spine and ribs.

So, how is the mechanism of movement? The keratin scales of the snakes are used to drag the body forward against the ground during the movement.

The strong muscles help the snake lift some scales, the spines give the flexibility, the ribs the internal support, and the scales the dragging power, thus allowing it to move along rough surfaces like branches and trees and soil of course.

Do snakes have bones? Do all snakes have bones?

Do snakes have bones? Yes, of course, snakes have bones. They are reptiles and all reptiles have bones.

Do all snakes have bones? Yes, of course, all of the snakes living on this earth have bones as they are all reptiles.

The backbone we are talking about here in this post is made up of many small bones called vertebrae attached to the ribs.

The ribs are those series of slender curved bones articulated in pairs to the spine.

So, it’s 101% obvious that they all have bones as they have the main backbone, ribs, skull bones, and many other tertiary tail bones.

With no arms or legs, a snake has a simple skeleton. The skull is connected to a long, flexible spine (or backbone), with hundreds of ribs running down to the base of the tail.

If simply talking about the bones of the skull of a snake, then you must know that it is a very complex structure, with numerous joints of various small bones to allow the snake to swallow prey far larger than its head.

Snakes have loosely hinged jaws in their skull, and the bones of their lower jaw can open apart at the front.

This better allows them to swallow bigger meals than their own head, helped by their flexible ribs to take the meal inside their stomach.

How many bones do snakes have in their body?

The number of bones in snakes widely varies depending on their size and species. Small baby snakes can have only a few bones and large adult snakes can have many.

In general, a snake can have between 600 to 1800 bones, depending on the species. And, they all have around 24 bones in the skull and jaw joined together to form the complete skull, but the number of ribs and vertebrae bones vary widely.

Most snakes can be placed into one of four groups, based on their teeth, which correlate strongly with venom and lineage. The 4 groups are Aglyph, Opisthoglyph, Proteroglyph, and Solenoglyph.

It is also to be noted that 95% of snake species have more than 400 bones all total in their body. And, so only 5% are small species with less than 400 bones in total.

Just, for instance, a small snake like the thread snake that is only 10 cm long has about 200 vertebrae and the same number of pairs of ribs connected to each vertebra, and so it has about 600 bones in all total.

Whereas, if you see a large snake like the 7 meters long Giant python, you will find that it can have up to 600 vertebrae, for about 1800 bones in total in the body.

It has also been seen that in snakes the body size and vertebral number vary considerably among species.

So, a strong tendency was found for species with many vertebrae to reach a large maximum body size.

To understand this, just take the example of the Giant Python mentioned above when compared to that of a small Thread snake.

Why do snakes have backbones? What purpose do they serve?

The major function of the backbone in snakes is the protection of the spinal cord. It also provides the rigidity to the body and attachment for the various muscles.

An additional function of the backbone is to equally transmit the body weight and the balance while the snake is moving or in the position of rest.

The flexibility, elasticity, and rapid locomotory movement of the snake is possible due to the proper coordination between the backbone, ribs, strong muscles, and the outer body scales.

Snakes travel along the ground, up in the trees, through water, and underground very easily and rapidly. Some snakes can burrow and can travel almost with ease through the existing holes under the soil or rocks.

That’s only possible because of their backbone having numerous vertebrae joined together giving the body the flexibility to do so.

The most important function in the survival of the snake is that the backbone serves as a pillar to support the body’s weight and to protect the spinal cord.

Snakes have hundreds of ribs attached to each of the vertebrae of the backbone, almost the whole way from the neck to down their body, to protect the internal organs.

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