A-z - Animals

7 live-born snakes (as opposed to eggs)

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Do snakes lay eggs? Yes! However, you may be surprised or fascinated to learn that many snake species give birth alive. Snakes are temperature-changing reptiles that rely on the sun's heat to warm their bodies. Unlike humans, they cannot regulate their body temperature. So you might think that, like many reptiles, all snakes lay eggs.

Unfortunately, you are wrong. Not only do some snakes not lay eggs, but these snakes also give birth to live babies just like mammals. But why do some snakes lay eggs while others give birth to live young (little snakes)?

Here, we'll explore the different ways snakes reproduce, then take a closer look at seven snake species known for producing offspring.

Read on to learn about seven snake species capable of live birth.

Wait, don't snakes lay eggs?

There are two basic ways to make a small snake. The first is called oviparous reproduction. In oviparous reproduction, the male snake fertilizes the eggs inside the female snake. These eggs then develop inside the female until they are the right size and have hard shells. She then lays her eggs, usually in a nest or abandoned burrow. Depending on the species, she either leaves them or shields them, keeping them warm until the baby snakes hatch.

The second method of creating more snakes is called ovoviviparous reproduction. Live-born snakes are ovoviviparous. In these species, the male fertilizes the eggs, which then develop inside the female. However, females do not lay eggs when they are properly developed, but keep the eggs inside them throughout gestation. When ready, the baby snakes hatch in the mother's womb. She then gives birth to the hatchlings, which leave within hours of birth and start looking for their first meal.

What kind of snake can give birth alive?

Not all snakes lay eggs. These include venomous snakes, boa constrictors, boa constrictors, most water snakes, and all but a single genus of sea snakes.

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Let's take a closer look at seven species of snakes that can have babies.

1. Death Viper (Acanthophis antarcticus)

Common dead viper curled up on a rock
Death vipers have broad, flattened heads with vertical oval pupils.

© iStock.com/Ken Griffiths

These snakes live in the Australian states of South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. Venomous snakes are restricted to coastal areas of southern and eastern Australia, but also live in Papua New Guinea. They are poisonous but not aggressive. In Australia, they have the longest fangs.

Death adders are oviparous and can lay up to 30 young at a time. Their main threat is habitat loss and population decline due to invasive cane toads.

2. Western rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox)

Western rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox)
Western diamondback rattlesnakes have special heat-sensing pits that allow them to find prey in the dark.

©Alexander Wong/Shutterstock.com

The western diamondback, one of the largest rattlesnakes in the world, lives in the desert southwest of the United States and Mexico. It is easily identifiable by its brown and tan diamond markings on its back and its noisy rattle.

Western diamondback moths typically carry young snakes for about six months before giving birth to 10 to 20 live young. Lesser western diamondbacks start hunting and using their venom just hours after birth.

3. Green anaconda (Eunectes murinus)

Largest Snake: Green Anaconda
Baby green pythons are nearly two feet long when born.

©Patrick K. Campbell/Shutterstock.com

The green python is one of the largest snakes in the world. Green pythons can grow to be nearly 20 feet long and weigh more than 150 pounds. Despite their large size, they are not venomous and rely on strangling their prey. They are probably one of the largest living snakes.

Fortunately for anyone with a fear of big snakes, green anacondas live only in South America. They are semi-aquatic and spend most of their time in warm water in rivers, swamps and wetlands.

4. Eastern garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis)

Ribbon Snake vs Garter Snake - Eastern Ribbon Snake
Garter snakes are small and harmless to humans.

© Steve Bauer/Shutterstock.com

The garter snake is one of the most common snake species in North America. They are generally considered harmless, although their venom can be fatal to small reptiles and amphibians. Most have brown, yellow, or pale green sides and backs with yellow stripes from head to tail.

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Like most live-born snakes, garter snakes leave their mother shortly after birth. Baby snakes are usually about 6 inches long and can grow to about 2 feet long as adults.

5. Eyelash Viper (Bothriechis schlegelii)

Yellow Animal - Eyelash Viper
This rattlesnake is small and handsome, but venomous.

© Ondrej Prosicky/Shutterstock.com

The eyelash viper is a more beautiful venomous snake that lives in South and Central America. A highly venomous member of the rattlesnake family, it is characterized by a set of scales above its eyes that resemble eyelashes.

These slender snakes come in countless colors and patterns, including gray, yellow, tan, red, green, and brown. Small snakes are between 7-8 inches long. Like most venomous snakes, they primarily eat small birds and amphibians.

6. Yellow-bellied sea snake (Hydrophis platurus)

The most venomous snake in the world - the yellow-bellied sea snake
Yellow-bellied sea snakes give birth to live young at sea.

©Ken Griffiths/Shutterstock.com

Yes, snakes can swim. Some snakes, such as the yellow-bellied sea snake, spend most of their lives in the water. Yellow-bellied sea snakes live in every ocean except the Atlantic Ocean. Like all sea snakes, these snakes give birth to live young. Females carry their young for about six months before heading to shallow tide pools to give birth.

Yellow-bellied sea snakes come in two colors, a black back and a yellow belly. They have flat tails to help them swim, and a strong venom used to incapacitate the fish. They don't grow very large, with the largest females reaching around three feet, but they do have a strong bite.

7. Boa constrictor

Best Choice for Pet Snakes – Anacondas
Pythons can give birth to as many as 60 young at a time.

©Natalia Kuzmina/Shutterstock.com

Native to the dense tropical forests of South America, the python is one of the largest snakes in the world. It can grow to be nearly 15 feet long and weigh up to 100 pounds. Furthermore, it is a popular pet in the world and can grow to gigantic proportions in captivity.

Female pythons gestate their young for about four months before giving birth to about 30 young. Anacondas have some of the largest babies of all live-born snakes. At birth, boa constrictors are more than a foot long.

other reptiles that reproduce

Lifespan of a Lizard How Long Can a Lizard Live Cover Image
Certain types of geckos give birth to live babies.

© reptiles4all/Shutterstock.com

Besides snakes, other reptiles that give birth include many species of lizards and turtles. Skinks are an example of reptiles that can lay eggs or give birth to offspring. Certain types of geckos also reproduce this way.

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The reproductive process of slow worms is more pronounced than that of other reptiles that give birth to live young. Slow worms, technically lizards, lay eggs that hatch inside the body before the offspring emerge from the mother's cloaca. It's a unique way of reptile reproduction, and it's been studied extensively by biologists. This is an interesting evolutionary adaptation because it allows slow worms to inhabit different climates without having to worry about hatching or caring for the larvae they hatch from their eggs.

The prenatal python is a reptile that lives in the swamps of northern Argentina. Unlike other reptiles, this species gives birth to live young rather than laying eggs. The process of giving birth to live young is known as viviparity, and it involves the unborn baby snake receiving nutrients directly from its mother through a placenta-like organ. This allows the baby snake to fully develop inside the mother before being delivered at full size.

'Monster' snake 5 times bigger than a boa constrictor discovered

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featured image

Best Choice for Pet Snakes – Anacondas
The python is a nonvenomous snake known for its method of subduing its prey: by squeezing or strangling it.

© Natalia Kuzmina/Shutterstock.com

about the author

Brandi Allred

Brandi is a professional writer by day and a fiction writer by night. Her nonfiction work focuses on animals, nature, and conservation. She has degrees in English and Anthropology and writes horror, science fiction and fantasy stories in her spare time.

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