How do Snakes Drink Water? Uncovering the Unique Way Reptiles Hydrate

» Behavior » How do Snakes Drink Water? Uncovering the Unique Way Reptiles Hydrate

Snakes are some of the most mysterious creatures on Earth. While it is well known that they are carnivores, how they drink water has always been a mystery. In this article, we will explore the fascinating way in which snakes drink water and uncover the mystery.

Anatomy of a Snake

Anatomy Of A Snake

  • Head: Contains the eyes, nostrils, and mouth.
  • Fangs: Located at the front of the mouth, used to inject venom.
  • Tongue: Used to sense smells and tastes.
  • Tail: Helps the snake move and balance.
  • Scales: Cover the body, providing protection.
  • Skin: Holds the scales in place and helps the snake to move.
  • Vent: An opening located at the end of the tail, used for excretion.
  • Muscles: Allow the snake to move its body.
  • Vertebrae: Provide support for the body and helps it to move.
  • Skeleton: Includes the skull, ribs, and vertebrae.
  • Internal organs: Include the heart, lungs, and stomach.

How Snakes Drink Water

How Snakes Drink Water

  • Snakes drink water by sucking it up with their long and flexible tongues.
  • Snakes have a long, forked tongue which they use to collect particles in the air and to detect smells.
  • When snakes drink, they will first flick their tongue over the water surface to collect water particles and then quickly draw the tongue into their mouth.
  • The tongue is then positioned against the roof of the snake’s mouth, which is lined with special glands that detect the water particles.
  • The snake then flushes water into its mouth by contracting its throat muscles.
  • Finally, the snake swallows the water and the water is absorbed through its cells.

Capturing Prey

Capturing Prey
Snakes absorb water by ingesting prey that is already hydrated. By eating animals such as frogs, birds, and small rodents, they are able to satisfy their hydration needs.


Snakes will also lap up water with their tongues. This is done by flicking the tongue out of their mouth and back in quickly, scooping up some water in the process. The tongue will then be placed in the roof of the mouth, where the Jacobson’s organ is located. This organ allows snakes to detect chemicals in the water, allowing them to determine whether the water is safe to drink.

Capillary Action

Capillary Action
Snakes can also use capillary action to drink water. This is done by using the scales on their bellies to draw water up their bodies. The scales act as a wick, drawing the water up and allowing it to be absorbed into the snake’s body.

Advantages of Drinking with a Long Tongue

Advantages Of Drinking With A Long Tongue

Advantage Description
More Reach Snakes with longer tongues can reach more distant water sources than shorter tongues.
Better Accuracy The longer tongue gives the snake much better accuracy when drinking.
Less Stressful A long tongue means less stress on the snake’s body as it reaches for water.
Greater Control The snake can control its drinking more precisely with a long tongue.
More Efficient A longer tongue makes drinking more efficient, allowing the snake to drink more in less time.

Snakes with longer tongues are able to get to more distant water sources, with greater accuracy, control, and efficiency. This is less stressful for the snake’s body, and allows them to drink more in less time.

Water Intakes for Different Snake Species

Water Intakes For Different Snake Species

  • Garter Snakes: Garter Snakes consume a single large meal of aquatic prey each week and they drink from standing water or dew found on plants.
  • Pythons: Pythons are very large snakes and they consume large amounts of food, thus they require more water than other species of snakes. They drink from standing water, puddles, and streams.
  • Rattlesnakes: Rattlesnakes are very active hunters and they consume small prey several times a week. They rely primarily on water found in their prey, but they will also drink from standing water or dew found on plants.
  • Cobras: Cobras are very active and they consume a large amount of prey each week. They primarily rely on water found in their prey, but they will also drink from standing water or dew found on plants.
  • Corn Snakes: Corn Snakes are smaller snakes and they consume smaller prey several times a week. They drink from standing water or dew found on plants.
  • Gopher Snakes: Gopher Snakes are medium-sized snakes and they consume a large amount of prey each week. They drink from standing water or dew found on plants.

Factors Affecting Water Intakes

Snakes drink water in a variety of ways, depending on the environment they live in and the type of snake. The amount of water they consume also varies depending on several factors. The size of the snake, amount of activity, temperature and humidity of the environment, and the type of food the snake eats all play a role in the amount of water a snake needs to consume. Larger snakes require more water than smaller ones and those that are active consume more water than those that are inactive. The temperature and humidity of the environment also play a role in water intake, as snakes in hot and dry climates need more water than those in a cooler and more humid climate. Finally, the type of food a snake eats determines its water intake. Snakes that consume a lot of insects need to drink more water than those who eat mostly small mammals that provide more moisture in their diet.

Impact of Environment on Water Intakes

  • Various natural elements, such as temperature, humidity, and air pressure, can influence the amount of water snakes need to consume.
  • High temperatures cause snakes to lose more water through their skin and require them to drink more.
  • Low humidity can cause dehydration in snakes, as they lose more water through their skin than they can consume.
  • High air pressure can cause snakes to become dehydrated more quickly, as they have difficulty maintaining a healthy water intake.
  • Dry climates can make it difficult for snakes to find sources of water, leading to dehydration.
  • Flooding can also cause dehydration in snakes, as they can become trapped in areas with no access to fresh water.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Types of Snakes Drink Water?

Snakes drink water by sucking it through their mouths, taking it in through their skin, or absorbing it through their cloaca. All types of snakes drink water, although some species, such as the sea snake, are able to obtain the majority of their water from the ocean. Other snakes, such as the rattlesnake, rely heavily on their prey as a source of water, while many species of snakes, such as the corn snake, seek out and drink from standing water sources.

How do snakes know when to drink water?

Snakes have a highly tuned sense of smell and can use their forked tongues to sample the air for chemical cues that indicate the presence of water. They can also detect changes in humidity and temperature that help them locate moisture sources. Another way snakes can determine when to drink is by sensing the level of hydration in their bodies. Specialized cells in the snake’s skin detect changes in body moisture and can signal when the snake needs to drink.

How do Snakes Use Their Tongues to Drink Water?

Snakes use their tongues to drink water by flicking them in and out of their mouths to pick up airborne particles of water. This process is known as ‘tasting’ or ‘tasting the air’, and is used by snakes to locate sources of water. The tongue is then used to lap up water from the surface, with each flick of the tongue bringing a small amount of liquid into the snake’s mouth. The tongue is then retracted back into the mouth and the snake swallows the water.

What adaptations help snakes drink water?

Snakes have evolved a variety of adaptations to allow them to drink water efficiently. These include a forked tongue that can pick up water droplets and a hyoid apparatus that helps them draw the water into their mouths. They also have evolved the ability to swallow large amounts of water quickly and shut their nostrils to prevent water from entering their lungs. Additionally, snakes have a special valve at the back of their mouth, called a glottis, that prevents water from entering their trachea.

How Much Water Do Snakes Typically Drink?

Snakes typically drink very little water and can survive on the moisture they get from their food. On average, a snake will only drink up to 10ml of water per week. In the wild, they usually get their water from dew, rain, or the prey they eat. In captivity, they can be given water in a shallow dish, or they can get water from a humid hide or misting.


Snakes consume water in a variety of ways, from direct drinking to absorbing moisture from their environment. Their anatomy is well-adapted to ensure that they can stay hydrated, even in dry conditions. The forked tongues of snakes are used to detect water sources, and the wide range of habitats that snakes inhabit means that they can access water from a variety of sources. Snakes use suction to draw water into their mouths, and can also use their bodies to absorb water from their environment. The complex adaptations of snakes ensure that they can stay hydrated, even in dry environments.

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