Can you tell how old a rattlesnake is
by counting the number of rattles on the tail?
No! The rattler
itself is a dry cartilage-like piece of skin that
represents the end product of the shed process. Each time
the snake sheds, it adds one additional button or segment
to the rattle. The many loose overlapping segments allow
a vibrating, quivering movement effect which makes the
sound of rattling when the snake activates the muscles of
the tail. The snake may shed several times a year as it
undergoes growth or needs to rejuvenate its old rougher
skin for stalking and movement purposes. During a very
wet year, the snakes tend to shed more often, and as they
are growing rapidly at an early age they shed more.
Counting the buttons may shed more light on how many
times the snake has shed its skin rather than its age,
since the shedding process does not coincide with the
calendar. Also, the snake often breaks the rattler off
many times during the course of daily living. Larger,
older snakes have usually lost their neo-natal or first
primary button, along with several more, so that they do
not even have all the rattlers they have developed during
their lifetime and travels. Besides, accurate counting
can be very tricky on a live snake!
|Authored by CONCISE COMMUNICATIONS. This page last updated on 05/28/97.
Copyright © 1997 CONCISE COMMUNICATIONS & TNE, Inc. All rights reserved.
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