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Do Snakes Have Noses?

Remember this college kid? She got thrown another curve ball by a pack of pre-schoolers. The conversation went something like this:

College Kid: (after reading a book about a snake) So do you know how snakes smell?
Kids: With their tongues!!!
College Kid: Your right. Good job.
Kid A: (raises his hand) So, do snakes have noses?
College Kid: Nope, snakes don’t have noses because they smell with their tongue.
Kid A: Oh… (as parents shake their heads like “oh wow, I didn’t know that”).
My Son: (not raising his hand) Snakes DO have noses!
College Kid: No, they don’t.
My Son: Yes they do.
College Kid: No, I don’t think they do…
My Son: (looks over at me in horror).
Me: (mouthing to Ari when the College Kid is not looking) Yes they do, your right, it’s ok. Sit down.
My Son: Hey! My Mom says snakes have noses!
Me: (I blush a little, smile and wave).
College Kid: Ooookay. (Avoids eye contact, changes the subject).

Yes, snakes do smell with their tongue. They do this by flicking their tongue to collecting particles from the air. They then stick their tongue against a special organ on the roof of their mouth called the jacobson’s organ. This organ smells the gathered particles.

BUT, just because snakes don’t smell with their nose, doesn’t mean it’s not there. They do have two little nose holes on the end of their snout called nostrils; which are mainly used to breathe.

I was surprised at how hard it was to find good information to confirm my assumption about snakes nasal structures. There’s a lot of weird stuff on the internet! I finally consulted a Herpetology textbook, Joe (husband) and my Dad. An hour later there you go. Yes, snakes technically have noses. Well, sort of…

6 Comments so far

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  1. Oh wow. I can’t believe that college kid. So glad Ari has you to double check these facts. And I have a feeling Ari is going to grow to enjoy telling this lady she’s wrong.
    I’d never really put the two together, but just because you’re a vertebrate and have a nose doesn’t mean you have to use it to smell. Later, you can tell Ari how critters without noses smell things!

  2. Oh, college kid. I must have had contact with someone like her when I was little because somewhere in the distant past I learned that mosquitos suck our blood and take it back to feed their babies. I took it as Fact and believed it completely until sometime *after* I took a general entomology class, when I started to tell someone this “fact” about mosquitoes and stopped mid-sentence, realizing that what I was saying was wrong. I was shocked! How could I have carried around this false fact as truth for so long without anyone correcting me? and why did that person tell me that anyhow?! I was sooooo frustrated. At least Ari and Lou have you and Joe to dispel College Kid’s false “facts”. Though I do think maybe she needs to learn the power of saying “I don’t know. What do you kids think?”

    • MamaBee – Ya, I hear ya. I’ve been in a similar situation, and I’m sure there are still a few factoids I use that are totally off. I should probably start fact checking myself too! ;)

  3. You have to take over that girl’s job. My goodness.

    • Liz – I often wonder (now that I have little kids of my own to deal with all day everyday), “could I ever go back to teaching kids full time?”

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    I'm Lindsey. I'm an environmental educator, my husband's a biologist. The outdoors is infused into everything we do; which explains why I'm better at mud pies than home decorating. More About Me

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