How Do Snakes Smell

Orlando snake

Snakes don't have the average olfactory system like most animals and humans. However, you will be surprised to know that most snakes have an excellent sense of smell. It is perhaps a way to compensate for their limited eyesight and poor sense of hearing. When they are sniffing their environment, they have a unique organ on the roof of their mouth known as the vomeronasal organ. They will catch the particles in the air and deliver them on their Jacobson's organ.

Do Snakes Use Their Tongue When Smelling their Environment?
Snakes may appear that they have a regular nose. According to the expert, their nose can smell something, but if it catches something that interests them, they will use their tongue to get a better sense of the smell. At this point, you will notice them flicking their tongue. The snake's tongue is perfectly designed to stay on the scent's trail.

Snakes have that forked tongue; some of them may appear more complicated and extreme compared to others. When they are flicking their tongue, they will pick the chemical cues in the air or ground and deliver them to their vomeronasal system. It is a bulb-like system that can translate an array of information such as the source of the smell and the animal that left the chemical cues. Initially, experts believe that the snakes are inserting their forked tongue into their vomeronasal organ. Now, they found out that this is not the case.

Their tongue comes with a rostral groove that enables the snake to quickly flick in and out their tongue, even if their mouth is closed. If you see the snake flicking its tongue, it is usually smelling its environment. Their chromoreceptive organ will then process the particles that will be caught by their moisty tongue.

How Do They Smell With their Vomeronasal Organ?
Compared to other animals, the vomeronasal organs of lizards and snakes are well-developed. They are chemically sensitive, which allows them to locate their prey easily. It consists of various cells that deal with smelling functions. This part originated from the nasal sac's out pocketing that can be found in amphibians. The nerve that connects this organ to our brain is a part of the snake's entire olfactory system. With every retraction of the snake's tongue, the odor particles will be transferred to the Jacobson's Organ.

There are varieties of snakes that will rely upon their vomeronasal organ alone when locating their prey. They will exclude all other senses and depend only on this one, such as some of the vipers' species. Others will not use this to forage food; instead, they will utilize this when looking for a potential mate.

With the poor auditory and visual system of the snake, it will often rely on its sense of smell and touch when doing its activities. If the snakes feel a vibration in their surroundings, it will start to flick its tongue to assess their environment and determine if there are signs of danger.

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