Why Do Snakes Shed Their skin? – Snakes are interesting creatures that have a lot of myths and misconceptions about them. One common belief is that snakes shed skin to grow larger. But is that really true? Or are there other reasons? So, why do snakes shed their skin?
What is Ecdysis?
To understand why snakes shed their skin, it’s important to first understand how their skin works. Snakes have what’s called “scale armor” made up of overlapping scales that protect them from predators and the environment. Underneath these scales is a layer of skin that helps protect it from infection.
Every so often, snakes will shed their skin in a process called ecdysis. When they do this, they first rub against something rough to loosen the old skin. They then work their way out of the skin, starting from their head. The process can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days, and once they’re done, they’ll have a brand new layer of skin.
Why Does Ecdysis Take Place?
Now that you know a little bit more about how snakes shed their skin, let’s take a look at some of the reasons why they do it:
To Remove Parasites
One common reason why snakes shed their skin is to get rid of parasites. These can include things like mites, ticks, and leeches. By shedding their skin, they’re able to get rid of any parasites that might be attached to them.
As you can imagine, having parasites crawling on your skin would be pretty uncomfortable. Not to mention, it can also lead to infections. So, by shedding their skin, snakes are able to get rid of any unwanted guests and keep themselves healthy in the process.
Why Do Snakes Shed Their skin, To Heal Wounds
Another reason why snakes shed their skin is to heal any wounds they might have. If a snake has been injured, shedding its skin can help the wound heal faster.
During ecdysis, the snake is also shedding any dead tissue that might be attached to the wound. This allows new, healthy tissue to grow in its place and can help the wound heal more quickly.
To Grow Larger
One of the most common myths about snakes is that they shed their skin to grow larger. While shedding their skin does allow them to grow, it’s not because they’re growing larger. Instead, it’s because they’re growing longer.
During ecdysis, the snake doesn’t just shed the scales on its surface. It also sheds the layer of skin underneath. This layer of skin is what helps the snake stretch and grow longer.
To Get Rid of Old Skin
As snakes grow, their old skin starts to wear out. This can make it harder for them to move around and can also make them more vulnerable to predators and the environment. By shedding their skin, they’re able to get rid of the old, worn-out skin and replace it with new, fresh skin.
Think of it like this: would you rather wear a brand new pair of jeans or a pair of jeans that you’ve had for ten years? Chances are, you’d prefer the brand new pair of jeans. The same goes for snakes. They prefer to have fresh, new skin that’s not worn out and full of holes.
Why Do Snakes Shed Their skin To Change Their Colour
Some snakes will shed their skin to change their colour. This is usually done to help them blend in with their surroundings better or to make themselves less visible to predators.
For example, if a snake is in an area with lots of green plants, it may shed its skin to reveal a green colour underneath. This can help it blend in and avoid being seen by predators. Or, if a snake is in an area with mostly brown rocks, it may shed its skin to reveal a brown color underneath. Again, this helps it stay hidden from predators.
Shedding their skin also allows snakes to change their patterns. So, if they want to, they can make themselves less visible by shedding their skin and revealing a new pattern.
How Long Does Ecdysis Take?
The shedding process, or ecdysis, can take anywhere between a few hours to a few days. It all depends on the snake’s size and how much skin it needs to shed.
For example, small snakes may only need to shed a layer or two of skin, which can take just a few hours. On the other hand, larger snakes may need to shed several layers of skin, which can take a few days.
Why Do Snakes Shed Their skin, Dangers Associated with Ecdysis
While shedding their skin is essential for snakes, it’s also a risky process. This is because they’re vulnerable during this time and can be easily injured or killed.
Some of the dangers associated with ecdysis include:
One of the biggest dangers snakes face during ecdysis is drying out. This is because they can’t produce enough moisture to keep their skin moist while shedding. As a result, their skin can quickly dry out and crack, which can be painful and lead to infection.
Another danger snakes face during ecdysis is predators. Since they’re already vulnerable, any predator that comes across them during this time can easily kill them. During the process of shedding, the snake will hide away in a safe place to avoid predators. However, if they’re discovered, they may not be able to escape in time.
Why Do Snakes Shed Their skin – Injury
Finally, snakes can also be injured during ecdysis. This is because their skin is very delicate during this time and can easily be punctured or torn. If the snake is injured during ecdysis, it may not be able to shed its skin properly, which can lead to infection or further injury.
Tips For Helping Your Snake Shed Its Skin
If you have a pet snake, there are a few things you can do to help it shed its skin properly:
Provide a hiding place
Snakes like to feel safe and secure when shedding their skin. As a result, you should provide them with a hiding place, such as a cardboard box or plastic bin, where they can feel safe and secure.
Why Do Snakes Shed Their skin – Increase the humidity
As we mentioned before, one of the dangers snakes face during ecdysis is drying out. To help prevent this, you should increase the humidity in their enclosure. You can do this by misting their enclosure with water or using a humidifier.
Don’t handle them
Finally, it’s important that you avoid handling your snake during ecdysis. This is because their skin is very delicate and can be easily damaged. If you must handle them, be sure to do so carefully and avoid any areas that are shedding.
Final Thoughts on Why Do Snakes Shed Their skin
Snakes shed their skin in order to grow, change color, and replace old skin. The shedding process may last from a few hours to a few days, depending on the size of the snake and how much skin needs to be replaced. While shedding their skin is essential for snakes, it’s also a risky process that can lead to injury or death. There are a few things you can do to help your snake shed its skin properly, such as providing a hiding place, increasing humidity, and avoiding handling them during ecdysis.