Why Do Snakes Still Move When Dead?

February 15, 2024

Snakes spend much of their time sleeping, with some species reputed to sleep for up to 22 hours per day. When they’re not asleep, they’re on the move — they don’t like being handled or petted, and many people have stories of being chased by snakes. The reason for this is that snakes are wary animals that aren’t very receptive to affection or passing attention. That’s probably why so many snakes play dead when they are scared, hoping that whatever threat is present will lose interest and move along.

But the question remains: why do some snakes still move when they’re dead? According to experts, it’s because of the way they’re built. As cold-blooded creatures, snakes rely on the environment to generate their own heat and only require a minimal amount of energy and oxygen to function. This is why they can remain alive for a long period of time in anoxic conditions, such as when their head is severed from their body.

Reptiles’ low metabolisms also mean that nerves and muscles can continue to react to stimuli for a while after they die, even when the heart has stopped and the brain is no longer functioning. The eerie behavior captured in the viral video of a decapitated rattlesnake can be explained by the fact that a snake’s bite reflexes can stay functional for up to an hour after death, and even a decapitated head is capable of delivering its poisonous venom.

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