How Far Can Snakes Smell?

February 14, 2024

Snakes have a keen sense of smell. It can help them track prey and predators even if the scent has been moved. Some snakes can even smell blood from their wounded prey from a mile away! This is due to their ability to detect molecules carried by air currents. Their forked tongues can collect these molecules and translate them into signals that the brain understands.

Scientists aren't sure how far snakes can smell, but they do know that their sense of smell is very strong. This ability is used to hunt, avoid predators and find mates. Snakes also have cloacal glands that manufacture disagreeable-smelling substances to use as a deterrent. When they're frightened or bothered by people, these glands may produce defensive odors to repel predators and/or potential mates.

To smell, snakes flick their forked tongues into the air. The tip of their forked tongues have two "tines," each with a special hole on the roof of their mouths (called the Jacobson's organs). Each of these holes can collect odor molecules, which are then transferred to their vomeronasal organs. The forked tongues can then tell the direction of the odors. If they smell something to the right of them, the left fork of their tongue will get a different concentration of odors than the right.

In this way, snakes can pick up the odors of prey and potential mates from miles away. This is also how they can track their prey when it runs from them.


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