Even though they all have the same body plan – fangs, long body, and no limbs – there’s plenty of variation among snakes. Below, we’ll explore different species of snakes with flat heads.
Flat heads are helpful adaptations for multiple reasons. First, a flat head may help the snake defend itself in sticky situations. Second, the flat head enables the snake to burrow and nose around in the dirt for prey. Third, having a flat head helps them blend into their surroundings.
Some of these snakes are native to North America, but one lives outside of the Western Hemisphere entirely. Keep reading to take a closer look at 7 species of snakes with flat heads.
7 Snakes with Flat Heads
1. Eastern Hognose Snake
Scientific name: Heterodon platirhinos
The Eastern hognose snake might have the flattest head of any snake on this list. It’s not venomous, but it uses the flexibility of its neck and head to pretend to be a venomous snake.
Threatened eastern hognose snakes puff out their neck and flatten their bodies. They act like cobras except they don’t bite. Instead, they leverage their upturned shovel-like snout to headbutt predators.
They eat toads almost exclusively. Their shovel-like snout is adapted to nose aside mud and sand in search of amphibians. The eastern hognose snake prefers to live near water since that’s where most of its prey live too. In the United States, they live in the East.
2. Southern Hognose Snake
Scientific name: Heterodon simus
Southern hognose snakes are close relatives of the eastern hognose snakes. They share flat heads and a penchant for toads with their cousins. However, southern hognoses do have a broader diet. They also eat mice and frogs.
There is high color variability in most southern hognoses. They can be tan, brown, spotted cream, gray, and even red.
Their favorite habitats are the coasts of the southeast, especially sandy-soiled longleaf pine forests. They’re threatened by human development because of the destruction of said forests.
Adults average between 14 and 24 inches long. They are solitary creatures except during the breeding season. After mating the female lays about 10 eggs in a nest. Baby snakes hatch fully formed after two months.
3. Flathead Snake
Scientific name: Tantilla gracilis
The flathead snake is one of the smaller snakes on record. It measures in at just 7 inches long.
It spends most of its life close to the ground or underneath it. Flathead snakes are efficient diggers that burrow into loose sand and soil.
Flathead snakes rely on the lower Great Plains and the Rio Grande Valley to supply them with suitable habitat. This snake prefers an environment with abundant grasses and hiding places. Since it’s so small, its primary food source is centipedes and other insects.
They’re very docile and can be held easily by people. They lay eggs in tiny rock crevices or pockets of leaves. Hatchlings measure just 3 inches long!
Scientific name: Crotalus cerastes
Sidewinders are well-known rattlesnakes in the southwestern United States. They thrive in the hot desert sands of the Mojave Desert, southwestern Arizona, Southern California, and Southern Nevada.
One of their adaptations to the inhospitable desert conditions is a flattened head. This enables them to almost bury themselves entirely in sand while they wait for prey.
The only thing visible is their horned eyebrows, which guard their eyes from windblown sand. Their scales are large and distribute heat easily.
Sidewinders eat lizards when they are young. As they grow to adulthood, they consume small mammals, birds, and even other rattlesnakes.
Females give birth to live young. Unlike other snakes, she stays with her babies for a week until they shed for the first time. After that, they go out into the world and live solitary lives.
5. Tiger Snake
Scientific name: Notechis scutatus
The Tiger snake is native to the continent of Australia as well as Tasmania. This coast-dwelling serpent is highly venomous and lives in a variety of habitats around the continent. It prefers places with reliable freshwater sources and mild coastal weather.
They exist in several different colors, including black, olive green, brown, and gray. Stripes are common, but solid coloring is also seen. There are several varieties depending on where in Australia or Tasmania you observe one, but they are all the same species.
When they feel threatened, tiger snakes flatten their bodies out completely and raise their heads slightly. They may strike if they continue to feel threatened.
Adult snakes are almost 4 feet long. They eat almost anything they can take a bite of. Frogs, lizards, other snakes, mice, and birds are all on the menu.
6. Night Snake
Scientific name: Hypsiglena torquata
Night snakes live in the western United States, Mexico, and Baja California. They are not venomous, but they pack an aggressive punch.
Their triangular heads fool inexperienced observers into thinking they are rattlesnakes. However, from the side, the night snake’s head is flat and in line with the body.
This snake is very adaptable. It can be found in habitats from sea level up to as high as 8,700 feet elevation!
They eat many amphibians, small rodents, and other snakes. Juveniles feast on insects and spiders.
An adult night snake measures in between 12 and 26 inches long, but most are only about 18 inches. They are most active at night when prey are less aware of potential predators. When it’s cold, they hibernate, a process called “brumation” in reptiles.
7. Red Diamond Rattlesnake
Scientific name: Crotalus ruber
Red diamond rattlesnakes are easy to spot because of their diamond-like patterns and their black and white tail rattle. Adult snakes measure in at about 3 feet long, but they can grow up to 4.5 feet. They also have very flat heads. This adaptation is likely to help them blend in with desert sands.
These rattlesnakes live in rocky cliffside areas near the Pacific Ocean. Vegetation is middling to sparse, but rocks and places to hide are abundant. Rabbits and mice thrive in such environments.
They take advantage of these environmental conditions by lying in wait for their prey, small mammals and lizards. When it’s close enough, they strike, using their powerful fangs and venom to bite it.