What Is The Difference Between A Snake And A Serpent

Snakes and serpents are often used interchangeably in daily conversations, but the truth is that there is a significant difference between the two. Although they belong to the same order, there are various physical and biological distinctions in terms of their body structure, behavior, and habitat. This article dives deep into what sets snakes and serpents apart, so you can identify them with clarity and understand their functions in the ecosystem.

Body Structure

The physical structure is one of the primary differences between snakes and serpents. Snakes are characterized by having relatively shorter and thicker bodies with a distinct head and a heavier mid-body section. They also have lower sensory organs, such as nostrils and eyes, to track their prey and sense their surroundings effectively. Most snakes are also venomous, which means they have long and sharp fangs that inject toxic venom to immobilize their victims instantly.

On the other hand, serpents have a slender and smoother body, which results from their efficient movement on land and in water. Unlike snakes, they have an elongated body that runs from the head to the tail without any significant differentiation. Serpents also have a distinctively articulated backbone, which allows them to coil and grip their prey tightly. They rely more on their keen sense of smell and vibrations to locate their food, rather than sight, which is limited in water.


Another critical distinction between snakes and serpents is their behavior. Snakes are more aggressive and territorial, often attacking anyone or anything that poses a threat to their territory or food source. They tend to strike their victims suddenly and abruptly to immobilize them, using venom that is lethal to even the most massive creatures. Some species of snakes, such as the Rattlesnake, use their distinctive rattling sound to warn off impending danger and defend their territory.

In contrast, serpents are known for their calm and non-aggressive behavior. They rarely attack unless provoked or cornered, and they usually try to escape or hide instead of confronting their predators. Serpents rely on various defensive mechanisms, such as camouflage, to blend in with their surroundings and remain hidden from any threat. They also tend to be more social, forming groups of congregate around certain areas such as water sources.


Snakes and serpents have different habitats that provide them with the perfect conditions to thrive. Snakes are more commonly found in warm and dry regions, where they can bask in the sun to regulate their body temperature. They prefer to live in dry areas such as deserts and grasslands, where food is plenty and water sources are scarce. However, some species of snakes, such as the water snake, thrive in aquatic environments, such as streams, ponds, and swamps.

Serpents are more diverse in their habitat, with some species preferring dry land and others thriving in aquatic environments. They can be found in various habitats, such as forests, grasslands, and wetlands. They tend to stick to loosely packed soil, where they can dig their burrows and hide during the day. Their aquatic counterparts live in shallow water bodies, such as rivers and lakes, where they can swim and prey on fish and other aquatic creatures.


In conclusion, while snakes and serpents may appear similar in their body structure, their behavior, and habitat differ significantly. Snakes have shorter and thicker bodies, are more aggressive, and are usually found in dry and warm regions. Serpents, on the other hand, have elongated and slender bodies, are non-aggressive, and can be found in a variety of habitats, including aquatic environments. By understanding these differences, you can gain a more comprehensive understanding of the fascinating world of reptiles and their functions in the ecosystem.

Keywords: snake, serpent, difference, body structure, behavior, habitat, physical distinctions, venomous, sense of smell, vibrations, basking, aquatic environments, dryland, ecosystem.