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RATTLESNAKE FACTS

  • The Sonoran Desert has more species of rattlesnakes (11) than anywhere else in the world
  • They are one of the most highly specialized organisms
  • Fangs are like retractable hypodermic needles
  • Venom breaks down blood and/or paralyzes nerves, useful for subduing prey and beginning the digestive process (and warding off threats)
  • pit organRattlesnakes use many senses
    • Eyes for seeing when there is sufficient light
    • Pit Organ for "seeing" at night or when there is insufficient light (this is how they get their name -- pit viper). The pit organs appear as holes located between each eye and the mouth and they sense heat (infrared radiation). They act as infrared goggles that military personnel use at night.
    • Nostrils for smelling
    • Jacobson's Organ for augmenting smell. It is located on the roof of the mouth and interprets chemical scents delivered to it by the forked tongue. Each fork of the tongue actively collects chemicals from the ground and air and brings it to the respective side of the Jacobson's Organ. This allows the snake to determine which direction the prey was traveling.
    • Body feels ground vibrations, allowing the snake to "hear" animals approaching
  • Rattlesnakes give birth to live young that already have a "prebutton" on the end of their tail and are venomous (don't be the one fooled by the curio shops selling rattlesnake eggs)
  • rattleA new segment is added to the rattle after each shedding of the skin, and rattlesnakes shed their skin more or less often depending on many factors (e.g., food intake, temperature, etc.); therefore, one cannot determine the age of a rattlesnake by counting the rattle's segments. The rattle rattles as segments brush against one another (not like a kid's rattle that has something inside).