Smithsonian Answer Book: Snakes / Edition 2

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What's the largest snake in the world? Can snakes fly? Do hoop snakes really wind themselves into a circle and then chase people by rolling downhill? Is it true that, when walking in a "snaky" area, only the last person in line will be bitten? Everything you ever wanted to know about these often-maligned creatures is in this book. Snakes is written in an accessible question-and-answer format and has more than 100 stunning color photographs. Learn what snakes eat and how they crawl, breathe, hear, smell, and much more. Explore such phenomena as the rattlesnake's rattle, the viper's hiss, and the snake charmer's secrets. The authors also give expert advice on such practical subjects as distinguishing venomous species from harmless look-alikes and keeping snakes as pets.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“This is a wonderful book. Carl Ernst and George Zug are eminent herpetologists who have produced a well-written book on an extremely popular subject . . . . Two of the sections will be eagerly used by librarians answering questions—that on giant snakes (boas and pythons) and that on poisonous snakes (vipers and cobras). The appendixes offer further information on the classification and sizes of snakes and provide a useful directory of herpetological organizations. A glossary defines some of the more technical terminology. Finally, two bibliographies provide a comprehensive overview of the scientific literature on snakes. This exceptional book should be in every library.”—Booklist
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781588341136
  • Publisher: Smithsonian Institution Press
  • Publication date: 9/23/2004
  • Series: Smithsonian Answer Book Series
  • Edition description: 2ND
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 7.25 (w) x 10.40 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

George R. Zug is curator of reptiles and amphibians at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. He lives in Virginia. Carl H. Ernst is Distinguished Professor of Biology at George Mason University and the author of numerous books, including Snakes of the United States and Canada. He lives in Virginia.

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Table of Contents

Preface xiii
Acknowledgments xv
Introduction xvii
1. Snake Facts
What Are Snakes? 1
How Do Snakes Differ from Lizards? 1
How Are Snakes Built? 3
How Do Snakes Breathe? 8
How Do Snakes Crawl and Swim? 10
Can Snakes Crawl Backward? 13
How Do Snakes Climb? 13
Can Snakes Fly? 14
Do Snakes Dig Burrows? 15
How Do Snakes See? 15
What Are Pit Organs? 17
Do Snakes Hear? 18
Can Snakes Smell? 18
Do Snakes Taste Their Food? 20
How Do Snakes Find and Subdue Their Prey? 20
How Is Venom Used in Prey Capture? 22
How Does Constriction Kill? 22
Do All Snakes Kill Their Prey before Eating It? 23
What and How Do Snakes Eat? 24
Why and How Do Snakes Shed Their Skin? 27
Why Are Snakes Striped, Banded, or Blotched? 29
How Do Snakes Get Their Colors? 32
When Is an Albino Not White? 33
Can Snakes Change Colors? 34
How Do Snakes Grow? 34
Do Snakes Grow throughout Their Lives? 34
How Fast Do Snakes Grow? 35
How Long Do Snakes Live? 36
What Does It Mean to Be Cold-Blooded? 38
Why Do Snakes Bask in the Sun? 38
Are Snakes Ever Warm-Blooded? 38
How Do Snakes Spend the Winter? 40
Do Snakes Hibernate Like Mammals? 40
Where Do Snakes Hibernate? 41
Do Snakes Huddle Together to Keep Warm? 42
How Do Snakes Reproduce? 43
How Do Snakes Find Their Mates? 43
How Often Do Snakes Mate? 45
Do Female Snakes Brood Their Eggs? 46
How Many Eggs or Young Are Produced? 47
Do Female Snakes Protect Their Young? 48
Do Snakes Have Enemies? 50
What Sounds Do Snakes Make? 52
How Does a Rattlesnake Rattle? 52
Do Snakes Make Other Sounds? 54
How Do Snakes Defend Themselves? 54
Do Snakes Get Sick? 57
What Are Some Common Diseases of Snakes? 57
Do Snakes Have Parasites? 58
Do Snakes Get Cancer? 59
Do Snakes Feel Pain? 60
When Did the First Snake Appear? 60
How Are the Ages of Fossil Snakes Determined? 62
How Many Kinds of Snakes Exist Today? 63
How Are Snakes Classified? 63
How Are Snakes Related? 65
2. Folktales
Why So Many Falsehoods? 69
What Supernatural Powers Are Attributed to Snakes? 70
Which Tales Are True? 71
Are Snakes Cold and Slimy? 71
Do Snakes Hypnotize Their Prey? 72
Do All Venomous Snakes Have Triangular Heads? 73
Are All Hooded Snakes Venomous? 73
Do Injured Snakes Die before Sundown? 74
Do Snakes Have Special Odors? 74
Are Hoop Snakes For Real? 74
Do Snakes Chase People? 74
Do Mother Snakes Swallow Their Young? 75
Do Snakes Milk Cows? 75
Do Venomous and Nonvenomous Snakes Interbreed? 76
What Other Strange Tales Are Told about Snakes? 77
Can Snakes Be Charmed? 78
3. Giant Snakes: Big and Biggest
What Qualifies as a Giant? 81
Anacondas 81
Reticulated Python 83
African Rock Pythons 84
Indian Python 86
Australian Scrub Python 87
Boa Constrictor 88
Asian Ratsnakes 90
King Cobra 91
Taipans 92
Bushmaster 93
Mambas 95
Other Giants and Near-Giants 96
4. Snakebite
Venomous or Poisonous: What Is the Difference? 105
What Is Venom? 105
How Many Snakes Are Venomous? 108
Where Are Venomous Snakes Found? 110
Which Snakes Have the Most Potent Venom? 112
How Do Fangs Work? 113
How Is Venom Injected? 116
Do Snakes Spit Their Venom? 120
How Dangerous Is a Snakebite? 122
How Do You Avoid Snakebites? 124
If Bitten, What Next? 124
What Is Antivenom? 125
Can Venom Be Used as Medicine? 126
5. Snakes and Us 129
Why Are Snakes Important to Us? 129
Why Do I Have Snakes in My House? 132
How Do I Keep Snakes Out of My House and Yard? 134
Should I Keep a Snake as a Pet? 136
How Can I Become a Snake Specialist? 139
What Remains to Be Learned about Snakes? 139
Appendix 1. Classification of Snakes 141
Appendix 2. Slower than They Seem: Locomotion Speeds of Select Snakes and Other Animals 145
Appendix 3. Herpetological Organizations 146
Glossary 148
General Bibliography 153
Subject Bibliography 155
Taxonomic Index 169
Subject Index 175
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