WHY DOES A RATTLESNAKE RATTLE ? | Back to Caresheet Index |

:: Why Does A Rattlesnake Rattle ?

To anyone who is unfamiliar with serpents, the rattlesnake is probably one of the easiest recognised of all snakes.

Most residents in the UK don't know what any of our native species look like but the Rattlesnake is recognised by even the most ignorant!

The Rattler has become recognised world wide because of its unique appendage (although some species don't have a rattle) and the sound of its rattle can send shivers down the spine of even the most fearless of persons.
Hollywood has often used the terror factor caused by this animal, which has had more than its fair share of bad publicity. Hunted to near extinction in some areas in world famous or infamous "round-ups" the Rattlesnake is actually quite a timid snake who gives plenty of warning to intruders that it's about! But how does it rattle?

The secret is in the tail. The tail is shaped differently to any other snake, instead of a gradual taper the tail is shaped and ridged. As the snake sloughs its skin the majority of the skin sheds off in the normal manner but when it reaches the ridged tail it breaks away leaving a shell like crust hanging loosely over the end of the tail. The un-discarded skin is made from "Keratin" (the same substance that fingernails are made of) and dries into a hard husk. Each time the snake sloughs another rattle is formed until the Rattler has a string of rattles. Although some, over a period of time fall away it is not unusual for a specimen to have a rattle with up to 10-20 sections to it! As the snake gets defensive it vibrates its tail and hey presto the distinctive rattle is heard.