Snakes are fascinating creatures.
And just as much as they are fascinating, they are also mysterious.
Most people don’t really know all that much about them.
Even researchers are continually learning new things about snakes.
One question many have is: do snakes give off carbon dioxide?
If you look at them, it can seem like they don’t breathe at all. This is especially true of sea snakes.
But I assure you, they do breathe. Keep reading to learn whether snakes exhale CO2, plus everything else you need to know about the way snakes breathe.
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Do Snakes Give Off Carbon Dioxide?
Yes, snakes do give off carbon dioxide. Just like other animals, snakes breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide. Snakes need oxygen for all of their organs to work correctly.
Snakes might breathe in and out the same way we do, but it’s not exactly the same. Their anatomy does differ from ours. Let’s take a closer look and see how snake lungs function.
Inhale and Exhale
Just like us humans, snakes have lungs which they use to move air in and out of their body. They inhale and exhale by expanding and contracting their rib cage, which gives the muscles around this area room to breathe.
A snake is also able to adapt its breathing to its environmental scenario. For example, if there is more carbon dioxide in the area, then they make take in more breaths, or breathe quicker, so that they can still inhale all of the crucial gases that they need to keep them going.
A Snake’s Lungs
Some snakes have two lungs, but it is more common for them to only have one lung. That lung is located on the right side and takes up a large amount of the body.
If a snake does have two lungs, the second one will be on the left side of the body and will be much smaller than the one on the right.
The right lung has small air pockets that fill up with air and then pass oxygen through to the rest of the snake’s body. Any waste gases, like carbon dioxide, are then expelled when the snake exhales.
Snakes also have a unique version of a windpipe that also helps them to breathe. It operates like a lung and ends at the snake’s heart.
That’s where it then splits into bronchi, which direct the air into the snake’s lungs, helping it to breathe.
Snakes that live and hunt in the water still need oxygen to breathe. They do not have gills, which means they still have to come up for air.
This is true even for sea snakes. But snakes that do live in the water are able to hold their breath for a long amount of time. They can hold it up to an incredible 30 minutes, which gives them plenty of time to hunt in the depths.
Snakes can even sleep under the water. Their body is able to adapt, so that they can sleep, or even hibernate, in the water.
Because snakes still need oxygen while they sleep, they take in oxygen and other gases they need through the skin and then expel any carbon dioxide back into the water.
The reasons snakes are able to spend long periods underwater is because they have a section in their lungs which can store oxygen. It is an air sack that works the same way an air tank works for a diver.
This section of their lung reaches down to their cloaca and has dense sides, making it harder for any precious air to escape.
Once a snake has used up the extra oxygen in this lung, it will need to break the surface for a few more breaths, before it can go back to lurking in the depths.
Lots of snakes live in underground burrows, where there can sometimes be a serious lack of oxygen. Because of this, a snake will not go too deep below the surface and may choose instead to bury itself under leaves, shrubs or grasses.
If a snake has burrowed under the sand, rocks or debris, then oxygen can still filter its way through the cracks. This air allows the snake to continue to breathe in.
Snakes Give Off Carbon Dioxide: Final Thoughts
Snakes breathe the same way we do, which means they give off carbon dioxide and inhale oxygen. Even the species with only one lung do this in more or less the same fashion we do.
However, snakes do have a few differences. One of those allows some species to hold their breath for up to 30 minutes underwater. They are even able to sleep while underwater!