Crotalus – Rattlesnakes

Known for producing buzzing rattling sounds with their tails

These snakes are easily recognizable by the distinctive sound-making rattle at the end of their tails. This rattle is made up of interlocked segments of keratin, the same material that makes up human hair and nails, and when vibrated, it produces a buzzing sound that is a warning to potential threats to stay away.

These snakes are quite the adventurers and are not picky about where they live. They can make their homes in rocky hills, peaceful meadows, and dense scrub brush, but they are especially famous for living in the desert sands of the Southwest. Rattlesnakes are flexible and adaptable, which means they can make the best of many different environments.

What’s really cool about rattlesnakes is how they ‘smell’ the world. They have a special organ called Jacobson’s organ, which gives them a superpower sense of smell. This isn’t like how humans smell flowers or dinner cooking; rattlesnakes use their forked tongues to pick up scents from the air or ground, then touch their tongue to the Jacobson’s organ to ‘taste’ the smells. This helps them find their dinner, like rodents and other small animals, and know when there might be danger nearby so they can hide.

It’s a common misunderstanding to think snakes smell with their tongues because we see them flicking their tongues in and out. But really, the tongue is just the messenger bringing information to the special smell organ in the roof of their mouth.