How Intelligent Are Snakes?

Although little has been done to test the level of a snake’s intelligence, the indications are that snakes have incredible learning abilities. The slithering giants are excellent trackers – some of them have a unique knowledge of their territorial boundaries. While many may term that behavior as instinctual rather than intellectual, the discussions always boils down to this: more testing is needed. The major drawback faced during research is that snakes are challenging to test.

Until the end, this read will be focusing on snakes and their intelligence. You will be opened about to some answers for questions that arise when snakes’ intellectual faculties are being interrogated. Let’s slither our way between the lines, shall we?

Intelligence, Instinct, And Learning In Snakes

In the world of reptiles, science, and research, snakes and the reptilian family at large are not seen as the planet’s most intelligent creatures. When you look at all animals, snakes do not meet the intellectual threshold. For a long time, snakes have been put at the bottom when a list of the most intelligent animals is compiled. The reason is that snakes did not get to finish the standard tests organized by scientists.

The one thing that put them down is their brain size – it has been used as a marker of intelligence. Honestly speaking, the size of a snake’s brain is nothing to be proud of. Compared to many other animals, the snake’s brain is small. Seeing that has been the situation, scientists have been ruling out snakes from the ‘intelligence’ list.

If you look at the snake’s already-small brain, you will see their front lobe on the small end. While the little brain does not necessarily point to a lack of intelligence, it means that snakes do not have long-term memory.

For most of their lives, snakes are seen to only concern themselves with mating, drinking, eating, and surviving. Female snakes lack maternal instincts, and some snakes have been reported to eat their young ones.

The Challenges Of Testing The Intelligence Of A Snake

In the past, scientists and reptile enthusiasts have not engaged in many studies to better understand the snake. One of the reasons grasping the reptile has been difficult is because they are not motivated. By motivation, I am talking about positive reinforcement or food. During intelligence tests, animals respond to these things, but the snakes remain unmoved. Actually, snakes eat one time every week and do not need a lot of food.

Also, snakes love cool places where they can curl up. Most of them do not travel too far to get food. Because of this hardness, the assumption made is that they are not smart enough to be resilient and solve problems.

Without tests, however, we will continue to subject a snake to the bias of brain size. However, we can say and believe that snakes are intelligent and smart in their ways.

Snakes, Recognition, And Smartness

Snakes may not be scientifically intelligent, but they are intelligent altogether. According to many herpetologists, the smartest snake is the King Cobra. This hypothesis is deduced from the snake’s nesting and hunting methods. As you may already know, the King Cobra is venomous, dangerous, and is the biggest snake as it reaches 18 feet in length.

Because of its stature, the cobra feeds on other snakes. There are some behaviors that the king exhibits that are not observed in other snake species. The male king is the only one that is mindful of its boundaries. It works its entire life to ensure that the territory is protected – that there needs intelligence of a high degree.

In captivity, the king has shown signs of smartness. It can recognize and learn about its owners. It will then use that information to differentiate its owners from other people. The snake is a little bit shy and will avoid strangers as much as it can. However, do not get fooled by that fact – the snake is hazardous and is not empathetic. It will bite and poison its owner when it gets the chance.

The other thing about king cobras is that they build nests for their eggs, unlike other snakes. This is done by gathering scrap leaves and twigs with the coiling technique. When they lay on the eggs for them to hatch, they do it in a camouflaging way. When you think about it, that is an incredible thing they do. So, they are not the most intelligent slither-masters for nothing.

Snakes, Recognition, And Smartness

Many people have come out saying that snakes have recognized them, but does that have any truth? While a snake may identify its owners, the degree may not be the same as that of a dog or a cat. The taste and olfactory senses of the snake help them to differentiate their owners from other people. Their tongues are specially designed to taste and smell air particles that any organism gives off. This means that even before you enter a room, the snake will know that you are coming. The reptile will know each place you have been and the time you spent there. Since that info is not needed in their lives, they will discard it.

As mentioned earlier, a snake’s brain is a little too small to take in all the information it gets and process it. When it comes to touch, a snake becomes tolerant as you pet it continuously. When you put your hand on a snake, it may feel at ease. Thus, it will become ignorant to the flight and flight instincts that may come. When another person touches the same snake, it will realize how different the touches are. It will then switch into the defensive mode. However, the snake will show you a form of respect when you are the one who feeds it.

Who Is Smarter – A Snake Or A Human?

Some studies and researches have it that a snake and a human may be so much alike when it comes to cognition and learning. While earlier studies put snakes out like dumb creatures, more researches are disputing and refuting that claim. At the moment, snakes are seen as creatures with an impressive learning capacity.

Is the Memory Of A Snake A Good One?

The memory of a snake exists, and the only difference is that it functions differently. Like many other wild animals, snakes learn who their predators and prey animals are. Although they can tell the difference between one thing and the other, they do not attach emotionally. They lack a part in the brain, which is why they don’t conceive or perceive emotions.

One man, David Holtzman, studied snakes and theorized something. As a University of Rochester neuroscientist, he posits that like birds and lizards, a snake’s brain grows perpetually. Neurons like the hippocampus keep growing, and that is what the snakes utilize in memory and spatial learning. So, if a snake’s brain keeps growing, it means that the reptile is not dumb and limited.

We should know that snakes are smart but in their ways. Their intellectual moves are what makes them survive. While people may argue that survival is more of instincts than intellect, they cannot ignore the fact that smell and taste influence the learning of these animals. When time goes by, a snake’s brain will become fully formed, and more information about its intellect will be known.

Other Snake-Related Questions Answered

Snakes are among the many reptilian creatures which are not easily and emotionally affected. So, you may wonder – do they feel any kind of affection to their owners? As mentioned elsewhere in this read, snakes lack the intellectual capacity to experience the same emotions that humans do, such as affection and love. While they may not ‘love’ you, they can have an affinity and inclination for you. They may see you as a non-threatening creature that is focused on caring for it.

However, do not let that emotional bummer discourage you. As pets, snakes are excellent, even though they are not emotionally affected by the happenings around them. This section answers some of the questions in and around the emotionality and behavior of snakes.

Can A Snake Feel Even The Slightest Form Of Affection?

Among the reptile community, this is a subject of great debate. Many reptile owners do not believe that their pets do not love them. This is despite the fact that scientists say that snakes cannot love or feel affection. So, what should anyone believe?

If you look at the evidence, you will realize that one thing is clear, snakes cannot feel something about their owners. They are incapable of liking you because that is how snakes are made to operate. For the most part, a snake will operate on instincts – to survive and fight anything that seems threatening.

So, do not judge the snake using the margin of emotionality. Otherwise, that would make the reptile feel stupid. But snakes do other things, which is what you will be opened up to for the rest of this read.

Snakes And How They Relate With Their Owners

Out there, the snake has been depicted as an animal that connects with people well. Unlike cats and dogs – your average pets – the reptiles will only rely on their feeder. Since they like food, they will learn to associate it with the person who brings it. If you know classical conditioning, you know what the behavior is all about.

The food that snakes eat gives them satisfaction, which is a good feeling. Then, the snake will start associating whoever brings the food with joy. This means that even the slightest presence of the person will make the snake move because of the sensation expected.

If the person who brings the food is the snake’s owner, this implies that even their smell will become an important thing. In that case, the snake’s owner will become an essential element in the reptiles’ life. While this sounds fantastic, it may not always be the case.

Because of the snake’s reduced brain, they may not always remember the owner. For example, if they get a change of clothes, the snake will probably be confused. Also, the snake may not associate the smell or scent to its owner. The snake’s hearing, sight, and smell are not overly developed, meaning that the snake has difficulty trying to differentiate one person from the other.

Unlike humans, a snake has six senses – the extra one is the ability to detect changes in heat. However, this is not enough for a snake to use in differentiating humans because the heat signature of one human does not have a lot of difference compared to that of another human. In that case, therefore, snakes are inclined to use the sense of smell, which is quite advance, to tell the difference between one thing and the other.

You may think that the olfactory – or smell – sense is tied to the memory for all species, but that is only for humans. In the human brain, the olfactory receptor is near the hippocampus – the brain portion that helps in remembrance. This is why smell in human beings is strongly connected to memory. Snakes do not share the same brain; they don’t enjoy the luxury of remembering using scent.

For snakes, the sense of smell is a tool used to tell the distinction between what the reptile can and cannot eat. Generally speaking, this is why snakes cannot bite you unless you have the smell of mice on your hands. But that shouldn’t imply that the snake will remember you – it is highly unlikely to and cannot tell the difference between you and another human.

To put this subject to bed, the best thing to say is that the reptile cannot recognize things because of its brain.

Are Snakes Lovers Of Being Petted?

This is another can of worms and an unexplored area. To answer the question, many people who say that snakes don’t like captivity are usually discouraging others not to pet them. However, that is not true. On the contrary, snakes love being petted and staying at home. As long as the environment is cool and warm and they get something to eat, snakes will remain in their enclosures for as long as it takes. Caring for a snake is like taking the reptile out of the uncertainties of the wild and bringing it to the comforts of your home. You give it a chance to live a longer life where it doesn’t have to worry about predators.

If a snake was in the wild, it may not live as long as it would if it were in the cage under your roof. Snakes are born to survive, and once you take that off their chests, they begin to live calmer lives. As you may already know, survival is a chief concern for many animals. This is followed by reproduction and then nutrition.

As you pet the snake, the only problem it would have is the inability to mate. This can be solved by bringing a snake of the other gender. But aside from that, the reptile will appreciate the fact that you are protecting it and providing for its every need. So, do not be too worried about the snake’s passiveness – that is just how it is, and you should leave it at that.

Actually, it is a bad thing when you release a snake into the wild after it has spent a lot of time in captivity. Since they haven’t experienced the survival struggles of the wild, its life could end sadly. If you are petting a snake, ensure that it lives with you until its passes.

Since many pet snakes are not from the owner’s area of living, releasing the snake would make the reptile invasive. An invasive species will often wreak havoc on the natural environment it comes across.

If you need to get rid of your pet snake, you can put it up for adoption. If not, you can give it to a pet store. This will be your way of guaranteeing the snake’s survival and caring for it even without being there.

Snakes And Domestication

In the world of domestication, things are a little too complicated. Recent studies have tried to show what domestication entails. Also, they have changed what people understand about the possibility of domestication. The best thing to say about snakes and domestication is that snakes cannot be domesticated at the moment (things could change later).

The snakes that people keep as pets may not be taken as domesticated. Instead, they are considered captive reptiles. Now, do not allow this wording issue to tell you that snakes cannot be domestic. All the other domesticated species were first taken out of their environment.

But then, what exactly is domestication? For the most part, it involved getting animals tamed kept on a farm or as pets. The word of focus is ‘tamed’; snakes cannot be tamed. If you stretch your hand intending to rub the snake’s skin, it will see you as a threat approaching. In the end, it will go into a defensive mode and attack you.

This takes us back to the discussion in and around a snake’s intelligence. Many times, snakes do not have any wishes and desires that go past their animal tendencies. They have raw emotions meaning that they can only be kept as captives rather than domestic pests.

It is essential to know that since a snake cannot go through domestication, they are not any less dangerous. If you make any mistake while handling the snakes, they will strike at you. If you are petting a snake, do not grow too fond of it; it won’t reciprocate.

If you haven’t gotten a snake yet, get one you will be able and comfortable to handle. Before you make the reptile purchase, ensure that you do extensive research on the various breeds of snakes. In the end, choose a snake that will be less like to poison you. Also, ensure that the snake will thrive and survive in your environment of living.

Snakes And Friendliness

A snake will show kindness and niceness to those it does not see as food or a threat. Some snakes will see playful – especially the harmless ones – to show that they can be friendly.

On the other side, it is unlikely that a snake will attempt to build a relationship with you. Unlike humans, snakes cannot conceptualize the feelings they have for other people. So, if you are looking for a snake that will give you the same experience as a pet dog or cat, you won’t get such.

Always have it in mind that snakes are the simplest creatures with the most complicated and complex emotionality. They don’t like the finer things in life like humans; they are okay with the bare minimum. So, avoid annoying the snake. If not, it will become aggressive. When it does, it may hurt you and poison you. You should choose to build a respectful relationship with it, and you two will get along just fine.

Does A Female Snake Feel The Affection Of A Male Snake, And The Other Way Around?

Of all the animals that reproduce sexually, some care about their partners and the others that don’t. Since humans mostly care about the partners they engage in intercourse with, it is hard for them to relate to and understand the lackluster attitude that a snake has for another.

As exemplified earlier, snakes lack sexual relatedness and maternal instincts. Mother snakes do not care about their young ones. Once they give birth to them or when the eggs hatch (inside or outside the body), the mother will abandon or eat them.

In the wild, you rarely find a snake that feels affection for its mate. Even if a relationship exists between two snakes, the relationship won’t hold for long. In captivity, two snakes can develop a relationship because of constant interaction.

Otherwise, the reptile will always take the option of moving on; that is how they act. While the reptiles may like wrapping themselves around things and other snakes,  they are not the kind who want to be tied down.

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