Did you know that some snakes are as small as an earthworm when fully grown?
The Barbados Threadsnake, Texas Blind Snake, Variegated Snail Eater, and Flat-Head Snake are the smallest snakes in the world. Many of these species grow only a few inches long. They are often found burrowing in the ground and eating small insects, mollusks, and arachnids.
Let’s explore where you can find these tiny snakes and how being small helps them in their environments.
The Barbados Thread Snake is a tiny, burrowing snake that grows to an average of 4.1 inches long. This snake lives in the eastern forests of the Caribbean island of Barbados.
This species has only recently been found, although, once it was identified, it was compared to other species in museums and matched several other specimens. S. Blair Hedges, an American biologist, discovered this miniature snake in 2006 and reported the find in 2008.
Though scientists are still learning about this small snake, they believe it uses its burrowing habits to feed on insect larvae in the soil.
Due to the dense population of this island, much of the forest that the Barbados Thread Snake lives in has been cut down. This, paired with an invasive species of snake introduced to the island, may be putting a strain on the Barbados Thread Snake.
Texas Blind Snake
The Texas Blind Snake lives on stony hillsides, prairies, and sandy, rocky deserts throughout the state of Texas, the Southwest United States, and Northern Mexico. These small snakes hang out under stones, boulders, and other objects.
These snakes grow to only 5-8 inches in length. They are usually brown, reddish-brown, pink, or silvery-tan in color, and closely resemble an earthworm. They have a habit of coming out after a spring rain, making them even more likely to be mistaken for a worm.
They are, as their name suggests, blind, but they are harmless to humans. Their upper jaws contain no teeth. They burrow in the soil surface at night, eating the larvae of insects, especially termites.
Females lay between 1 to 6 eggs in cracks in the earth from late March to June. They hibernate in the winter to protect themselves from cooler weather.
Although they don’t hurt humans, they can become annoying when they invade the home. These snakes like moist conditions and will get under house foundations, into bath traps, ductwork, and condensation basins of air conditioners.
Variegated Snail Eater
Native to Ecuador, the Variegated Snail Eater has a blunt head, black markings against a gray background. They are about 34-25 inches long when fully grown. This species is extremely rare. It lives in the northern part of the country in the dense forests. It can be found in other parts of South America, too, such as Bolivia, Brazil, Peru, Suriname, Venezuela, and Trinidad and Tobago. It is considered closely related to the Trinidad Snail-eating Snake.
Variegated Snail Eaters are nocturnal. They hunt for slugs and snails on the ground level. They do not eat the shells of these mollusks, instead, they use specialized muscle contractions to get snails out of their shells and swallow them.
They are completely harmless and are considered docile snakes. They are not venomous and never try to bite. However, they do have glands in their lower jaw which secrete mucus that paralyzes their prey. The secretion doubles as a lubricant for swallowing their prey, as well.
During the day, they sleep under the debris on the forest floor or in the branches of small, woody plants.
At only 7-8 inches in length, this small snake blends in easily with its environment. The Flat-Head Snake has smooth scales and a tan, gray-brown, or reddish-brown coloration. The head is often darker than the body. Its belly is salmon pink.
This is another species of burrowing snake. It lives in rocky, wooded hillsides. It prefers limestone rock and sandy soil. They live from the lower Rio Grande Valley up to Kansas and Missouri. Many gardeners will find them when they turn over a pile of rocks or leaves.
The Flat-Head Snake feeds mostly on arthropods like centipedes and spiders. They lay 1-4 eggs in late spring. When their young hatch, they are only 3 inches long.
At first glance, you might mistake many of these tiny snakes for earthworms. It’s hard to believe that snakes, animals that humans often associate with fear, can come in such a harmless size. These burrowing snakes do a good job controlling pests. This includes the insect, mollusk, and arthropod populations in their regions. Although some of them may sneak their way into homes, they don’t bite humans. So, these harmless, tiny snakes are cute and fun to see out in the wild.