Most people are familiar with the fact that snakes are reptiles and as such they are ectothermic or “cold-blooded.”
This means that they rely on the environment to regulate their body temperature.
In warm weather snakes will bask in the sun to raise their body temperature.
In cooler weather they will find a warm spot to curl up in.
What many people don’t know is that snakes also have an interesting way of breathing.
Instead of lungs they have something called “pulmonary sacs.”
These are sacs of tissue that are connected to the snake’s throat.
When the snake breathes in air enters the sacs and fills them up.
Then when the snake exhales the air is forced out of the sacs and back through the snake’s nostrils.
How Does This Process Work?
When a snake breathes in its body expands and the air pressure inside the snake decreases.
This decrease in pressure allows air to flow into the snake’s pulmonary sacs.
Then when the snake exhales its body contracts and the air pressure inside the snake increases.
This increase in pressure forces the air out of the sacs and back through the snake’s nostrils.
Interestingly this process of “belly breathing” is different from the way that most other reptiles breathe.
Most other reptiles have lungs that are connected to the air sacs.
This means that when they breathe in air goes into both the lungs and the sacs.
When they breathe out air goes out of both the lungs and the sacs.
How Does This Difference Affect The Way That Snakes Breathe?
Well for one thing it means that snakes can take in more air than other reptiles.
This is because the air sacs act like a second set of lungs.
They can store a lot of air and this allows the snake to take in more air with each breath.
Another difference is that the air sacs help the snake to “push” air out of its lungs.
This is because the air sacs are connected to the lungs.
So when the snake exhales the air in the sacs is forced out of the lungs and back through the snake’s nostrils.
What Are The Benefits Of This Unique Way Of Breathing?
For one thing it allows the snake to take in more oxygen.
This is because the snake’s body is efficient at using the oxygen that is in the air.
In fact snakes can extract more oxygen from the air than other reptiles.
Another benefit is that it allows the snake to stay underwater for long periods of time.
This is because the air sacs help the snake to “push” air out of its lungs.
This allows the snake to stay submerged for long periods of time without having to surface to breathe.
So there you have it! That’s how snakes breathe.
It’s a fascinating process and it’s just one of the many interesting things about these amazing creatures.