Do Snakes Turn On Their Backs When They Die?

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It’s a commonly held belief that when snakes die they turn on their backs and twist their bodies into a spiral. But is there any truth to this claim? Let’s take a closer look at what happens to snakes when they die and what might cause them to curl up in this way.

When a snake dies its body begins to shut down. This process starts at the head and works its way down the snake’s body. The snake’s heart will stop first followed by its breathing. Once the snake’s heart and lungs have stopped the rest of its organs will quickly follow suit.

As the snake’s body begins to shut down its muscles will start to relax. This can cause the snake to curl up or coil into a spiral shape. It’s important to note that this is a reflexive response and not something the snake does intentionally.

So why do people believe that snakes turn on their backs when they die? There are a few possible explanations.

First it’s possible that people have confused this reflexive muscle response with intentional movement. When a snake is dying its body may twitch or convulse as its muscles start to relax. This can give the impression that the snake is trying to turn itself over.

Second some people may believe that this is a snake’s way of showing respect or submission. In the wild snakes will sometimes roll onto their backs when they encounter a predator. This may be seen as a sign of surrender but it’s actually a defensive tactic. By rolling onto its back the snake exposes its soft underside to the predator. This makes it harder for the predator to kill or eat the snake.

Third it’s possible that people have confused this reflexive muscle response with a death throe. A death throe is a violent muscle contraction that can occur when an animal is dying. This can cause the animal to thrash about or curl up into a tight ball.

So what’s the truth? Do snakes turn on their backs when they die?

It’s a common misconception that snakes do this intentionally. In reality it’s simply a reflexive muscle response that occurs when the snake’s body begins to shut down.