Many people assume all snakes lay eggs, which then hatch into baby snakes.
However, did you know some snakes have live babies?
Snakes come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, and the way they give birth also differs.
As an interested snake owner, you may want to know:
What snakes have live babies?
Yes, some snakes do have live babies. These include garter snakes, sea snakes, boa constrictors, anacondas, rattlesnakes, and others.
While most snakes do lay eggs, making it a justified assumption, many others have different techniques.
Keep reading if you’re interested in learning more about bearing snakes.
Why Do Some Snakes Have Live Babies?
The reasoning for many animal behaviors is tied back to evolution and the requirements for best survival.
Laying eggs is usually easier on mama.
She lays the eggs and lets them hatch into snakes, protecting them, sometimes keeping them warm, but sometimes leaving the eggs to their own devices.
This is an advantage for the mama.
At the beginning of snake and reptile evolution, all of them laid eggs.
This changed over time.
Snakes which give birth to live babies have a lot more responsibility.
They have to grow and incubate these live babies, which causes many changes to their bodies and is tougher for recovery.
The advantage here is snakes can protect themselves better than a brood of eggs can.
An unattended brood of eggs could easily be attacked and eaten by predators.
Snakes growing baby snakes inside of them can protect themselves and their future babies.
Some snakes which give live birth are also acclimated to colder temperatures.
By growing their babies inside them, they give them a better chance of survival because the eggs won’t be sitting outside in the cold.
Eggs require heat to develop babies optimally.
Other snakes which live in particularly wet environments also take advantage of live birth, as wet conditions aren’t good for eggs.
Too much water can drown the eggs.
What Snakes Have Live Babies?
There are three different categories of snakes in terms of giving birth: oviparous, viviparous, and ovoviviparous.
Think of “ovi” as referring to eggs like ovum, and “vivi” as referring to “live” like the Spanish word vivir.
Oviparous snakes give birth the old-fashioned way, by laying a nest of eggs and allowing them to hatch when the time is right.
Viviparous and ovoviviparous snakes give birth to live young.
Viviparous snakes grow babies similar to mammals.
A placenta and yolk sac grow inside the snake, which supplements nutrients to the growing baby snakes.
When the embryos are ready for birth, they come out of mama ready to slither.
This is a very rare form of reproduction in snakes and evolved for particular purposes.
Ovoviviparous snakes also give birth to live baby snakes, but the process is different.
The mama snake develops eggs inside of herself, which contain the growing baby snakes.
Her body incubates these eggs until they are ready to hatch.
The eggs hatch within the mama, and then the baby snake is birthed live.
The remnants of the eggshells are retained within the mama snake’s body, so we do not see the eggs which incubated the embryos.
Most bearing snakes have this style of reproduction. Fun fact, sharks are also ovoviviparous.
Let’s dive into a few species of snakes with mechanisms of live birth.
Rinkhals are ovoviviparous snakes.
They have a very feisty personality and excellent defense mechanisms, making them the perfect snakes to protect their young.
Next, we have sea snakes, a special variety of snake which spends the majority of its time within the water.
They very rarely leave the water to go onto land.
Snake eggs cannot grow and thrive within the water because the thin shells are permeable and can allow water to cross into them and drown the babies, making live birth a necessity for these snakes.
Similarly, water snakes live in wet environments like marshes and are one of the rare few snakes which have completely viviparous forms of reproduction.
It’s difficult to find dry areas to lay eggs in their environment, and eggs are at risk of drowning even if they’re not entirely underwater.
This means live birth will give their offspring the best chance at survival.
Like water snakes, boa constrictors are also viviparous snakes, which is pretty impressive, considering they’re one of the common domesticated species which people keep as pets.
Anacondas are another viviparous species.
It makes sense why they evolved to be this way; who would want to mess with a gigantic anaconda?
While a small nest of eggs is a very easy target, not many predators can contend with a fully grown anaconda.
White-lipped snakes are also viviparous because they tend to live in colder climates.
Eggs will generally die in colder climates, which is why you’ll usually see animals guard and incubate their nests to ensure they stay warm.
If not incubating them, these snakes leave their nests in warmer areas.
For white-lipped snakes, they can keep their eggs warm by finding warmer, sun-lit spots and migrate around to bask in the sun.
A nest of eggs would not have the ability to search for warmer areas.
All rattlesnakes also are ovoviviparous, which makes sense.
They are venomous and have developed immaculate defense strategies to protect themselves and their young.
Their offspring also have a higher chance of survival from live birth than an unprotected nest of eggs.
How Many Baby Snakes Are Born At The Same Time?
Snake offspring are called snakelets, neonates, or hatchling snakes.
Different snake species will give birth to differing numbers of snakes.
Like dogs and cats, snakes tend to give birth in large “litters” rather than to one offspring at a time, like humans or horses.
A “litter” of snakes is referred to as a nest. Some species can give birth to over 100 babies at the same time!
Evolutionarily, this will usually depend on survival factors.
Snakes with fewer natural predators will often produce a smaller number of offspring.
Snakes in a predator-rich environment will give birth to a larger number to increase the chances some of them will survive.
Here we’ll talk about some common snakes species and how many offspring they have at a single time.
In general, live-bearing snakes give birth to fewer neonates at once than oviparous species.
Garter snakes are famous for their breeding.
A single garter snake can reproduce with dozens of males, storing the sperm within their bodies for future purposes.
They stay pregnant for two to three months and then give birth to as little as three baby snakes to as many as eighty baby snakes!
Boa constrictors can give birth to 10 to 65 babies.
Rattlesnakes, on average, give birth to about 10 babies.
Sea snakes give birth to as few as two but can birth up to ten.
After birth, snakes immediately become independent and go off to live on their own.
They do not require mama’s help or protection, as they are fully functional from the moment they are born.
How Do Snakes Reproduce?
Interestingly, snakes do not have external sexual characteristics, which allow us to differentiate between the male and female species by looking at them.
Instead, a combination of pheromones is responsible for displaying their sex.
When a male snake discovers another snake of its species, it’ll slither alongside the other snake’s back to pick up pheromones.
Female snakes produce estrogen, which attracts males.
Male snakes’ sexual organ is a hemipene, while female snakes have a cloaca, an opening responsible for excreting waste.
The male snake’s hemipene inserts into the female snake’s cloaca, and it can take anywhere from an hour to a full day for mating to occur.
After it is complete, the male snake releases a mating plug which blocks the female’s cloaca.
This prevents other males from fertilizing the female.
Most snakes only breed with other snakes within the same species.
Each species has its own uniquely shaped hemipenes and cloacae compatible with the opposite sex within the same species.
Snake birth is a fascinating subject due to the variety of ways snakes undergo this task.
While some snakes lay eggs, others give birth to live snakes ready to thrive in the world right from the get-go.
Now you know what snakes have live babies.
Understanding how snakes reproduce and give birth is useful knowledge for anyone who owns a snake or is considering breeding.