How Long Can Snakes Hold Sperm?

Are you interested in learning more about how snakes reproduce?

Have you ever considered breeding snakes?

Whether you are a snake owner or an enthusiast, understanding the reproductive process in a snake is something you might be interested in learning.

When most owners learn female snakes may get pregnant months or years after mating, they’re shocked.

Which leads to this question: 

How long can snakes hold sperm?

Many snakes will store sperm inside their bodies for only a few days. Some female snakes have developed the ability to retain sperm in their bodies after mating for long periods, in some known cases as long as five years, but the average is only about two to three months. 

If you’re interested in learning even more about how long snakes hold sperm, continue reading this article.

how long can snakes hold sperm

How Long Can Snakes Hold Sperm?

Snakes are fascinating creatures.

Their lives center on finding food, avoiding predators, and mating to produce the next generation.

Snakes have developed the ability to hold sperm inside their bodies for great lengths of time to bring forth their offspring.

Many female snakes will only store the sperm for a matter of a few days. 

On average, the female snakes who do this will hold the sperm for about two to three months, and easily up to a year.

There have been some recorded instances where this has been longer.

A female rattlesnake is one of those on record.

In 2005, a rattlesnake was captured from the wild in Florida.

Five years later, in 2010, a rattlesnake gave birth, and scientists were in shock.

The snake had not been around a male member of her species for those five years.

Initially, scientists thought this was a case of asexual reproduction but later found two sets of chromosomes in the babies.

This means there were two separate parents.

Stories like this are more of a rarity but show the extreme lengths the snakes will go to have babies. 

Scientists have researched how the female holds the sperm and, at a later date, “decides” to become pregnant.

Some researchers have found the female folds part of their uterus into a shape able to hold the sperm.

This folding holds the sperm in and prevents it from impregnating the female until her body decides it is time.

Production of viable eggs decreases throughout the years.

After a year of copulation, the percentage of fertile eggs declines drastically and then progressively more each additional year. 

There is no real answer yet on how the female determines the time is right to release the sperm.

More research will be conducted over time, and maybe someday, we will ultimately know the answers.

Why Do Snakes Store Sperm?

Female snakes quite often store sperm, and this goes back to their objective of continuing the species.

But the holding of the sperm is often the result of their environment.

This is especially true of wild snakes.

Researchers have found, when food is scarce, it is more common for the female to have one clutch of eggs, using all of the sperm at once.

When conditions are right, the snakes give birth to more clutches and lay nearly three times the number of eggs by holding some sperm back for another set. 

 The process is all about what is best for generating offspring and continuing the species. 

Another theory suggests sperm storage occurs when males are not as plentiful, again to preserve the species.

If it is difficult for the female to find a male during the breeding season, she may retain some sperm for egg laying at a later date. 

Other animals in the world also store sperm for what researchers believe are similar reasons.

Scientists discovered guppies in Trinidad and Tobago retain sperm, as males tend to die at least a year before the females.

By storing sperm from multiple partners, the female picks the best genes to pass along. 

More rigorous research is needed to confirm the reason for sperm storage in snakes and the other animals who go through this process.

Asexual Reproduction

When it comes to reproduction, the snake has quite a few tricks up their sleeves, so to speak.

Besides many having the ability to store sperm, some snakes also participate in asexual reproduction.

Asexual reproduction, known in the scientific world as parthenogenesis, happens when an unfertilized egg develops.

Females who participate in asexual reproduction don’t need a male around to have babies. 

Asexual reproduction is common when a female is unable to find a male to mate with.

But a lack of males is not always the reason.

Studies involving pit viper snakes found this type of reproduction occurred in the wild where there were ample males around.

Meaning asexual reproduction might not be as rare as some initially believed.

Asexual reproduction is a way for animals to continue their species if they are endangered or are on the cusp of becoming endangered. 

While it might help save the species, there are some disadvantages to asexual reproduction.

With only one set of genes, there will be no genetic variations in the population, and less than ideal traits get passed along automatically to the next generation.

For example, if all snakes in one area have the same genes, one disease could wipe out the population.

Genetic diversity passed on when animals have two parents helps to combat this. 

Many times, in asexual reproduction, a female will produce offspring of only one sex.

If a lack of males were the problem before, a female giving birth to only females would only continue the problem. 


How long snakes hold sperm is a question you probably never thought to wonder. 

Snakes are creatures focused on continuing the species, and their many forms of reproduction show just how hard they work to do this.

Between storing sperm and asexual reproduction, a snake will do what is necessary to produce offspring.

While scientists have discovered the snake has this ability, more research is needed to truly understand the complexities of holding sperm in their bodies for great lengths of time. 

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