If you want the short answer, then it’s no, not all snakes lay eggs and some types of snakes give birth to live young.
But most snakes do lay eggs while others will give birth to live young. Even more amazing is the facts that some types of snakes develop the eggs inside of the female body, but in the end, they give birth to live young.
Most snake species, around 70% of them reproduce by laying eggs, and 30% give birth to live young, like rattlesnakes, vipers, boas and most of the sea snake species. Read on to find out more amazing facts about snake reproduction.
So which snakes Lay Eggs?
The majority of the world’s snake species lay eggs, and includes members of the large Colubridae family that accounts for 2/3 of all snake species and members of the Elapidae family like cobras, adders, mambas, taipans, etc.
Most sea snakes give birth to live young, however one genus, Laticauda, which is oviparous, lay eggs on land, as opposed to giving live birth like the other sea snakes.
In most cases female snakes abandon the eggs shortly after laying them. But there are a few species that will actually coil around the eggs to incubate them, helping keep them warm until they are ready to hatch. The female of the highly venomous king cobra (Ophiophagus hannah) builds a nest for the eggs, and even stays with their offspring for a while after the eggs have hatched.
And which Snakes Give Birth to Live Young?
There are 2 ways snakes give birth to live young viviparous (no eggs) and ovoviviparous (egg retained inside the female’s body) and both produce live and fully functional baby snakes. Most viper species, all of the rattlesnakes, members of the Boidae family like boa constrictors and anacondas like the green anaconda, give birth to live young.
The sea snakes are members of Hydrophiinae, a subfamily of the Elapidae family that also includes the venomous cobras, adders and mambas. With the exception of the genus Laticauda (as seen above) most sea snake species give birth to live young, this means the babies are born live in the water.
There is no parental protection when it comes to snakes, so when the baby snakes are born live, they are completely on their own. The hatchlings start their lives on their own shortly after birth, and must fend for themselves from day one. That’s why babies from venomous snakes like rattlesnakes are born “fully loaded” with fangs and venom, and capable of inflicting a deadly bite.
So how do snakes reproduce?
Well like other things it depends on the snake species, as we’ve seen most snakes lay eggs while others give birth to live young. It seems there’s only 2 ways snakes give birth, but in fact, snakes have 3 different methods for reproduction, read on to find out more.
Oviparous: Most snake species, around 70% are considered oviparous, which means they lay eggs. The eggs like those of birds must then be incubated, or at least kept warm, until the hatchlings are fully developed and ready to emerge from the shell.
From the Colubridae family almost all of its members lay eggs, including rat snakes, king snakes grass snakes and other species. The mambas, cobras, adders, and many other members of the Elapidae family are also oviparous.
Viviparous: In this reproductive method there’s no egg present at all, it’s the most similar to that of mammals, humans included. Snake species that are considered viviparous nourish their developing young through the placenta and a yolk sac.
This is something that is very unusual among reptiles. Boa constrictors and green anacondas are 2 examples of viviparous snakes, meaning they give birth to live offspring, and no eggs are involved at any stage of development.
Ovoviviparous: We can think of the ovoviviparous method as a “mix” between an egg layer snake species and one that gives birth to live young. In snake species that are ovoviviparous females develop the eggs inside their body. When the babies are born, the female is still retaining the eggs inside of her body.
Basically the eggs will hatch inside of the female and the baby snakes eventually emerge fully formed and active with no shell at all. The hatchlings are born alive and outside of their eggs. The many rattlesnake species are ovoviviparous, meaning they give birth to live young after developing and retaining the eggs inside their bodies.