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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.


common name for an elongated, limbless reptile of the order Squamata, which also includes the xlizardslizard,
a reptile of the order Squamata, which also includes the snake. Lizards form the suborder Sauria, and there are over 3,000 lizard species distributed throughout the world (except for the polar regions), with the greatest number found in warm climates.
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. 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 venomvenom
or zootoxin,
any of a variety of poisonous substances produced by animals. In poisonous snakes, venom is secreted in two poison glands, one on each side of the upper jaw, and enters the fang by a duct.
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, 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 snakebitesnakebite,
wound inflicted by the teeth of a snake. The bite of a nonvenomous snake is rarely serious. Venomous snakes have fangs, hollow teeth through which poison is injected into a victim.
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). 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 snakesgarter snake,
harmless snake of the genus Thamnophis, abundant from Canada to Central America. There are many common species; members of most species are about 2 ft (60 cm) long. Most garter snakes are striped or banded lengthwise, and some are spotted between the stripes.
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 (including the ribbon snake), the water snakes, the green, or grass, snakes, the black snakesblack snake,
name for several snakes, not all closely related, that are black in color. In the United States the name is applied chiefly to the black racer and to the black rat snake (Elaphe obsoleta), both partly arboreal in their habits.
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, the racersracer,
name for several related swift, slender snakes, especially those of the genus Coluber. All of the racers are nonpoisonous, nonconstricting, day-active snakes. The black racer, C.
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, the king snakesking snake,
name for a number of species of the genus Lampropeltis, nonvenomous, egg-laying, constricting snakes of North America which show much variation in color and markings.
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 (including the milk snake), and the bull, hognose, and rat snakes. The family Boidae (boasboa
, name for live-bearing constrictor snakes of the family Boidae, found mostly in the Americas. This family, which also comprises the egg-laying pythons of the Old World, includes the largest of all snakes, as well as many smaller ones.
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 and pythonspython
, name for nonvenomous constrictor snakes of the boa family, found in the tropical regions of Africa, Asia, Australia, and the S Pacific islands. Pythons climb and swim expertly. They kill the birds and mammals on which they feed by squeezing them in their coils.
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) 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 viperpit viper,
poisonous snake of the family Crotalidae, primarily a New World family. Like the Old World true vipers (family Viperidae), pit vipers have long, hollow, erectile fangs that are folded back against the roof of the mouth except when the snake is striking.
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 family; these include the copperheadcopperhead,
poisonous snake, Ancistrodon contortrix, of the E United States. Like its close relative, the water moccasin, the copperhead is a member of the pit viper family and detects its warm-blooded prey by means of a heat-sensitive organ behind the nostril.
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, water moccasinwater moccasin
or cottonmouth,
highly venomous snake, Ancistrodon piscivorus, of the swamps and bayous of the S United States. Like the closely related copperhead, it is a pit viper and has a heat-sensitive organ for detecting warm-blooded prey.
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, rattlesnakerattlesnake,
poisonous New World snake of the pit viper family, distinguished by a rattle at the end of the tail. The head is triangular, being widened at the base. The rattle is a series of dried, hollow segments of skin, which, when shaken, make a whirring sound.
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, fer-de-lance, and bushmasterbushmaster,
large venomous snake, Lachesis muta, of Central America and N South America. It is a member of the pit viper family, which also includes the rattlesnake. The largest New World snake, it reaches a length of 8 to 12 ft (2.5–5.5 m).
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. Venomous Old World snakes are the true vipersviper,
any of a large number of heavy-bodied, poisonous snakes of the family Viperidae, characterized by erectile, hypodermic fangs. The fangs are folded back against the roof of the mouth except when the snake strikes. Vipers are distributed throughout Eurasia and Africa.
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, including the adder and the aspasp,
popular name for several species of viper, one of which, the European asp (Vipera aspis), is native to S Europe. It is also a name for the Egyptian cobra (Naja haja).
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, and members of the cobra family, including the mambamamba,
name for African snakes of the genus Dendroaspis, in the cobra family. Widely distributed throughout Africa except in the deserts, mambas have extremely toxic venom.
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 of Africa and the krait of Asia. The poisonous coral snakescoral snake,
name for poisonous New World snakes of the same family as the Old World cobras. About 30 species inhabit Mexico, Central America, and N South America; two are found in the United States.
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 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 snakessea snake,
name for any of the venomous marine snakes of the family Hydrophidae, found in tropical waters of the Indian and Pacific oceans. The sea snake's body is flattened laterally and its oarlike tail is used as a scull.
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 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 worshipsnake worship.
The snake has been variously adored as a regenerative power, as a god of evil, as a god of good, as Christ (by the Gnostics), as a phallic deity, as a solar deity, and as a god of death.
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Snakes are classified in the phylum ChordataChordata
, phylum of animals having a notochord, or dorsal stiffening rod, as the chief internal skeletal support at some stage of their development. Most chordates are vertebrates (animals with backbones), but the phylum also includes some small marine invertebrate animals.
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, 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 © 2013, 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 ?
He further added, "All households should keep grass areas around houses low and well-maintained, Tin sheets or any household items like these that are piled up, can draw in heat providing a perfect man-made habitat for snakes, these areas provide a safe house for snakes as they sit in stealth mode awaiting prey to feed, and if startled they will defend through biting."
Baseer became their victim of snake bite in just one week.
Visitors to National Museum Cardiff have already been discovering the slithering, secret life of snakes at their new exciting new familyfriendly exhibition Snakes!
The audience at the snake exhibition and seminar asked the speakers questions about different species of snakes.
On the occasion, Muscat Daily spoke to the research department in the Nizwa University to find out about snakes endemic to Oman and bust some common myths surrounding them.
The snake department had to cut a tree to get hold of the snake weighing around 25kgs.
PS26, Topshop NEON GREEN SNAKE PRINT BODYCON DRESS: Make a bold fashion statement with this snake print bodycon dress.
Noble Research Institute senior wildlife and fisheries consultant Mike Porter will provide attendees with the need-to-know information about snakes in Oklahoma.
Snake Road is closed to vehicles between mile post 3.0 and mile post 5.8, but is open to people on foot.
The snakes can be heard hissing and making loud rattling noise every time the snake catcher pulls out a snake one after other.
In other cases, they are given medicine to treat an injury caused by a different snake.