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Related to Venomous snakes: king cobra, Venomous Spiders


, river, United States

Snake, river, 1,038 mi (1,670 km) long, NW United States, the chief tributary of the Columbia; once called the Lewis River. The Snake rises in NW Wyoming, in Yellowstone National Park, flows through Jackson Lake in Grand Teton National Park, then S and W into Idaho and northwest to its junction with the Henrys Fork River. The combined stream runs southwest, then northwest, crossing southern Idaho through the Snake River plain; there are several notable falls. The Snake makes a bend into Oregon and turns north to form the Idaho-Oregon and Idaho-Washington lines (receiving several tributaries, including the Boise and Salmon rivers), then turns at Lewiston, Idaho (at the mouth of the Clearwater River), and flows generally west to join the Columbia River near Pasco, Wash. Hell's Canyon is the greatest of the Snake's many gorges and one of the deepest in the world. Extending c.125 mi (200 km) N along the Oregon-Idaho line, it reaches a maximum depth of c.7,900 ft (2,410 m).

The Snake was explored by the Lewis and Clark expedition (1803–6) and was of major importance in U.S. expansion into the Pacific Northwest. The river is a major source of electricity, having numerous hydroelectric power plants. The upper and middle courses of the Snake and its tributaries are much used for irrigation by private projects (one of the most notable being at Twin Falls) and by projects of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, including the Minidoka project, the Boise project, the Palisades project, and the Owyhee project. Four navigation and hydroelectric power projects along the lower Snake provide slack water navigation from the mouth of the Snake 140 mi (225 km) upstream to Lewiston, Idaho. The projects are linked with the navigation system on the Columbia River. The late 1990s brought efforts to restore portions of the river by removing gravel and establishing new islands.


, in zoology
snake, common name for an elongated, limbless reptile of the order Squamata, which also includes the xlizards. Most snakes live on the ground, but some are burrowers, arboreal, or aquatic; one group is exclusively marine. In temperate climates they hibernate. They are generally solitary in their habits, although they may congregate in places offering food or shelter, and large numbers may hibernate together. Snakes range in length from about 4 in. (10 cm) to over 30 ft (9 m). Most are protectively colored.



Snakes constitute the suborder Serpentes (or Ophidia). In most snakes limbs are entirely lacking, but a few have traces of hind limbs. The skin, which is covered with horny scales, is shed, usually several times a year. The extremely long, narrow body is associated with distinctive internal features. The number of vertebrae is much larger than in most vertebrates, paired internal organs are arranged linearly rather than side by side, and only one lung is developed, except in members of the boa family, which have two lungs. The jaws of snakes are loosely jointed and extremely flexible. The pointed, backward-curved teeth are fused to the supporting bones of the head. There are no ears or movable eyelids; the eyes are covered by transparent “spectacles,” or ocular scales. Snakes have good vision. They do not hear airborne sound waves, but can perceive low-frequency vibrations (100–700 Hz) transmitted from the ground to the bones of the skull. A chemosensory organ opens into the roof of the mouth; it receives stimuli from the forked tongue that constantly tastes the surroundings as the animal moves along. Snakes have no larynx or vocal chords, but are capable of producing a hissing sound.

Locomotion and Limblessness

A snake moves by means of muscular contraction, which can produce several types of locomotion, the commonest types being undulation and straight-line movement. Straight-line movement is aided by the ventral plates, elongated scales on the abdomen that overlap with their open ends pointing toward the tail. These plates can be moved forward by means of muscles attached to the ribs.

It is believed that snakes are descended from lizards, but how and why they evolved toward limblessness is uncertain. Some paleontologists have held that limblessness was an evolutionary advantage in the dense vegetation that formed the early environment of snakes, or that it developed to facilitate burrowing habits, but others believe that the earliest snakes evolved in an aquatic environment and are descended from marine reptiles related to mosasaurs. The fossil evidence for a land or marine origin is inconclusive; the earliest known snakelike reptiles date to some 167 million years ago.


Small snakes feed on insects and larger ones on proportionately larger animals. Their teeth are designed for catching and holding prey, but not for chewing. The construction of the jaws, the ribs, and the expandable skin enable them to swallow very large prey whole. Some snakes capture animals by pinning them to the ground; some—the constrictors—crush them by wrapping their bodies around them and squeezing; still others—the venomous snakes—inject poison into their victims. The poison, or venom, is produced by modified salivary glands from which it passes through either a groove or a hollow bore in the fangs, the enlarged, specialized teeth found in venomous snakes. A snake may bite a person when threatened or alarmed; if the snake is venomous the bite can sometimes prove fatal (see snakebite). Only by familiarity with the appearance of particular species, or by examination of the fangs, can the venomous snakes be distinguished from the harmless ones.


Fertilization is internal in snakes; as in lizards, the males have paired copulatory organs, either of which may be used in mating. Females of some species can store sperm for several years to insure future fertilization. In most species the female lays eggs; in some the eggs are incubated and hatched within the mother's body; in a few there is true viviparity, or live birth, with the young nourished by means of a placenta rather than an egg. Some egg-laying snakes brood the eggs, but there is no parental care of the young.

Types of Snakes

The approximately 2,700 snake species, of which about four fifths are nonvenomous, are distributed throughout the temperate and tropical zones of the world (except in New Zealand, Ireland, and some isolated oceanic islands) and are found in greatest profusion in the tropics. About two thirds of all snake species belong to the family Colubridae; most of these are nonvenomous. Among the harmless colubrid snakes of North America are the garter snakes (including the ribbon snake), the water snakes, the green, or grass, snakes, the black snakes, the racers, the king snakes (including the milk snake), and the bull, hognose, and rat snakes. The family Boidae (boas and pythons) includes the world's largest snakes, the South American anaconda and the Asian reticulated python, as well as the smaller boa constrictor and the tree and sand boas.

Most poisonous New World snakes belong to the pit viper family; these include the copperhead, water moccasin, rattlesnake, fer-de-lance, and bushmaster. Venomous Old World snakes are the true vipers, including the adder and the asp, and members of the cobra family, including the mamba of Africa and the krait of Asia. The poisonous coral snakes of the New World also belong to this family. The venomous sea snakes inhabit tropical oceans.


Snakes are of major importance as pest controllers because of their extensive predation on destructive mammals such as rats and mice. Some, like the sea snakes and pythons, are highly regarded as food in Asia but, although most are probably edible, snakes are not widely used for meat. The skin is often used for belts, bags, and shoes. Venom is removed from snakes for use in treating certain diseases and to make antivenin for snakebites.

See also snake worship.


Snakes are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Reptilia, order Squamata, suborder Serpentes.


See A. H. and A. A. Wright, A Handbook of Snakes of the United States and Canada (2 vol., 1957); K. L. Williams and V. Wallach, Snakes of the World (2 vol., 1990).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2022, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.


(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

The Snake is one of the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac. It refers to one of the 12 earthly branches that are used in Chinese astrology, together with the 10 heavenly stems. Such a branch designates one day every 12 days: the days are named according to a sexagesimal (60) cycle, made of 10 series of 12 branches.

Attractive, smart, hateful of vulgarity, and sometimes narcissistic, the Snake has a disconcerting manner. Reserved and passive, he is a solitary person, but he fascinates. Elusive, he prefers to go around obstacles. Remarkably able to keep his composure, he is materialistic, very perceptive (sometimes visionary), and he makes an excellent organizer. He is also a generous, emotional, even fragile person who can prove to be very devoted, in spite of his apparent reserve. He often seems lazy until he finds his real goal in life.

—Michele Delemme

The Astrology Book, Second Edition © 2003 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a river in the USA, a left tributary of the Columbia River. The Snake River measures approximately 1,670 km long and drains an area of 282,300 sq km. Originating in the Rocky Mountains, in Yellowstone National Park, it skirts the eastern edge of the Columbia Plateau, flowing in places through canyons that have a total length of approximately 400 km and measure as much as 800 m deep. It forms waterfalls, including Shoshone Falls (65 m high). The river is fed by snow and rain. High water lasts from April to June. The mean flow rate at Clarkston, near the mouth, is 1,390 cu m per sec.

The Snake River is navigable for small ships as far as the city of Lewiston. Hydroelectric power plants and reservoirs are located at various sites on the river, including American Falls. The river is used for irrigation. The cities of Idaho Falls and Twin Falls are located on the Snake River.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

What does it mean when you dream about a snake?

Serpents are ancient symbols, often associated with goddesses of fertility. Because they live in the ground, serpents may represent the healing, nurturing earth; they can also symbolize knowledge. In some cultures in southern Asia, serpents symbolize primordial spiritual power. Alternatively, they may be emblems of the mysterious dangers of the underworld. The Christian tradition incorporated the latter meaning into its mythology, making snakes an embodiment of evil, particularly the evil of temptation (e.g., the snake in the Garden of Eden). For this reason, in Western cultures especially, snakes are images for people who are sneaky and deceptive. The cliche, “they behave like a snake in the grass,” captures this derogatory reference.

The Dream Encyclopedia, Second Edition © 2009 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.


A twisted and bent hod rod formed before subsequent rolling operations.
A flexible mandrel used to prevent collapse of a shaped piece during bending operations.
(vertebrate zoology)
Any of about 3000 species of reptiles which belong to the 13 living families composing the suborder Serpentes in the order Squamata.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


1. A long tempered-steel, resilient wire, usually having a rectangular cross section, used by electricians in pulling wires through conduit or through an inaccessible space; the snake is threaded through first, followed by the wire.
2. A tool used by plumbers to unblock a pipe or sanitary fitting; usually a highly flexible metal wire, given a rotary motion by a crank at one end.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Architecture and Construction. Copyright © 2003 by McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


1. any reptile of the suborder Ophidia (or Serpentes), typically having a scaly cylindrical limbless body, fused eyelids, and a jaw modified for swallowing large prey: includes venomous forms such as cobras and rattlesnakes, large nonvenomous constrictors (boas and pythons), and small harmless types such as the grass snake
2. (in the European Union) a former system of managing a group of currencies by allowing the exchange rate of each of them only to fluctuate within narrow limits
3. a tool in the form of a long flexible wire for unblocking drains
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005


In some cultures, snakes are highly regarded and symbolize the ability to transcend into higher levels of consciousness or into areas of knowledge that exist outside perceived time and space. In the pre-Christian days, snakes were considered symbols of fertility, healing, and nurturing (the healing serpent representing a god). Post Adam and Eve, snakes are often considered symbols of temptation and evil, anger, and envy. Snakes emerging out of the ground may represent your unconscious or repressed materials coming to your conscious mind. Freud thought that the snake was a phallic symbol. It is amazing how many people have snake dreams! Most snake dreams seem to be disturbing and they leave the dreamer feeling anxious and afraid. There are no simple interpretations to the snake dreams. Each dreamer must consider his own situation and all of the details of the dream. Sometimes snakes may be phallic symbols, and other times they represent negativity in our lives that hampers our progress and constantly threatens us. In the long run the snake may be a positive symbol; it may represent difficulties that lead us to the center of personality and result in feelings of completeness.
Bedside Dream Dictionary by Silvana Amar Copyright © 2007 by Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.
References in periodicals archive ?
Just make sure it's actually a venomous snake and not a harmless one.
Figures around the world vary wildly, but the World Health Organisation estimates around 100,000 people die each year following venomous snake bites, and the total number is likely to be even higher.
As such the present study was planned to document the ocular manifestations and causes of long standing visual impairment following venomous snake bite.
If a venomous snake bites your dog while you're out on a walk, his life can quickly be in danger.
" They even claimed that they had caught and released venomous snakes in the past in the neighbourhood.
Zoo director Bob Lawrence said although king cobras were one of the most venomous snakes, it had only been "a minor nip".
In response, Representative Debbie Phillips introduced a bill to prohibit the acquisition of dangerous exotic animals, including large cats, primates, constricting and venomous snakes, crocodiles and alligators.
This is a handy and helpful guide to identifying venomous snakes from all over the world.
The licence will allow him and his team to deliver training courses designed to educate people about venomous snakes and how to handle and care for them.
Growing up to 2m, the Arabian cobra is one of the the largest venomous snakes in Arabia and is found in highlands of Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Oman.
Alan Hughes, from LSTM, said: "Viewers also discover LSTM's collection of venomous snakes, crucial for the production of antivenom which saves hundreds of lives every year, and the state-of the-art facilities housing colonies of sandflies and mosquitoes, some of which feed on a doctor's arm during the film."