Snakes have the unique ability to regulate their body temperature using the
surrounding environment. Since a snake’s body heat is obtained from its
and not from metabolizing food energy, reptiles do not need to eat to keep
their bodies warm. It is by this method that a massasauga can live on so few
each year. Over the winter, the snake may not eat at all for six months.
Snakes are “ectothermic.” “Ecto”
means from the outside and “thermic” means
- In order to increase, maintain
or lower body temperature, snakes utilize the heat or cold from
“outside” of their body (in the surrounding environment).
- Ectotherms (such as snakes)
become sluggish, and their metabolic rates lower, as the
temperature falls. Although massasaugas are capable of limited
movement at 4°C, they require warmer temperatures for activity.
- Rattlesnake species do not
generally become active until temperatures exceed
12-13°C and their body temperature reaches a range of between 25
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