The teeth of the true serpents are simple, and directed backward. In the non venomous kinds there are four rows on the upper part of the mouth, two rows on the jaws, and two on the palate; each division of the lower jaw is also armed with a single row. In vipers, rattlesnakes, and other venomous serpents, there are no teeth on the upper jaw except the poison-fangs; the palatal teeth, however, forming two rows as in the non-venomous kinds, the arrangement of teeth in the lower jaw being also the same. Venomous serpents do not, in fact, need the same array of teeth as the non-venomous; depending rather on the power of their venom for their prey, which they suddenly wound, and then wait till it is dead. The poison-fangs are long in comparison with the other teeth; they are two in number, firmly fixed into a movable bone; when not in use they are laid flat on the roof of the mouth, covered by a kind of sheath formed by the mucous membrane of the palate; when the animal is irritated, and about to assail its enemy or its prey, they stand out like two lancets from the upper jaw. They move with the bone into which they are fixed; and the bone and muscles are so arranged that the opening of the mouth brings them into the position for use. There is above them, and toward the back of the head, a large gland for the elaboration of the poison, which is forced through them by the action of the muscles, each fang being tubular. The tube of the fang is formed, not as by a hollowing of it, but as by a bending of it upon itself, and is situated in front. The opening near the fang's point is a narrow longitudinal fissure. The poison-fangs are very liable to be destroyed, and the germs of new ones are generally found behind them, ready to grow and supply their place.
It is sometimes stated as a distinction betweeu venomous and non-venomous serpents that the former have only two rows of teeth on the upper part of the mouth while the latter have four. This rule must not, however, be accepted without qualification. la the marine serpents (hydrae), there are rows of maxillary teeth behind the poison-fangs; and some of the venomous land-serpents, as the bongars or rock snakes of the East Indies, which, however, are not among the most venomous, have some smaller teeth in the jaw-bones behind the poison-fangs.
. The venom of serpents differs much in its deadly power in different species. The bite of some causes the death of a human being in a few minutes, so that no crea tures are more formidable; that of others proves fatal after the lapse of hours; while the bite of others, such as the common viper, is seldom fatal, although causing great pain and many unpleasant consequences. "I have carefully examined all the evidence on record," says Mr. Bucklaud, "as regards the most efficacious internal remedy that can be given in such cases, and have conic to the conclusion that nothing is so good as ammonia" (Curiosities of Natural History). The same writer also recommends brandy or other stimulating drinks to be taken in large quantities. But it is of the utmost importance to suck the wound as soon as possible after it has been inflicted and no danger is to be apprehended in doing so if there be no scratch or sore about the mouth, for the poison, so deadly when it with the blood, is quite- innocuous when taken into the stomach.
Many antidotes to the poison of serpents are in vogue in different countries. most of them, ii not all: utterly unworthy of regard. Dr. Fayrer believes that the bite of the cobra, claps, and Russell's viper is almost certain death. Tight ligatures above the bit ten part to stop the circulation of the poisoned blood; excision; cauterizing with live coal, red-hot iron, or gunpowder: application of ammonia, and repeated doses of alco hol, are the chief remedies to be tried; but they must be resorted to immediately after the patient has been bitten.
,The. peculiarities of the lungs of serpents-are noticed in the article REPTILES. The heart is placed very far back in the body. The intestines have a great absorbent power, and the fasces consist only of the most indigestible portions of the prey in an extremely desiccated state; the members of the animal which has been swallowed being still often distinguishable, and hair, scales, and the like remaining unchanged.
The tongue of serpents is forked and is often thrust out of the mouth. It is vulgarly regarded as the sang, but serpents have no sting, their only weapons being the fangs already noticed. The only sound which serpents emit is that of hissing.
Serpents are either strictly oviparous or they are ovoviviparous. The non-venomous serpents are generally oviparous; the venomous, ovoviviparous. The eggs of those which lay eggs are generally deposited in a long string, connected by a kind of viscous substance, in some heap of decaying vegetable matter, the mother paying no further heed to them. But some serpents coil themselves around their eggs and hatch them; and it would even seem that the habits of the same species differ as to this in different climates. The eggs of serpents are not quite devoid of calcareous covering, but have so little that their integument is soft and pliable.
It has been often alleged that vipers and other serpents when alarmed. swallow their young, and eject them again after reaching a place of safety. There still remains some doubt on this curious question, which has been much discussed; and it is not improbable that the alleged proofs of it from living young ones issuing out of the body of the parent when crushed, are to be accounted for by the ovovixiparous mode of generation. • It seems probable that serpents do not possess the senses of taste or smell in great perfection. The ear has no external opening, and no tympanum, nor is it certain that their hearing is acute, but they are remarkably sensible of the power of music, of which serpent-charmers avail themselves, both to bring them from their holes and to control them. See SERPENT-CIIARMING. A European gentleman, residing in one of the moun tainous parts of India, found that his flute attracted them in such numbers to his house that he was under the necessity of ceasing to play it. Their eyes arc small, and are pro tected from the dangers to which they might otherwise be exposed, by a transparent integument connected with the skin, and which comes away with the skin when the old skin is cast off, as is the case at least once a year/ The colors of serpents are very various, and often very beautiful. As a general rule, but not without exceptions, the venomous species are of darker and more uniform color than the non-venomous. The aversion and horror with which serpents are so generally regarded are, of course, due to the dangerous character of so many of them and the difficulty of observing and avoiding them.
Serpents are used as food by some savage tribes. They are capable of being tamed, and some of the non-venomous species have frequently been so, and have been found useful in killing mice, rats, and other such vermin.
Serpents abound chiefly in tropical climates, although some are found in northern countries, as in Scandinavia. 'The British species were, until recently, supposed to be only three in number—the blindworm (one of the saurophidia) and two true serpents, the common snake and the viper, the last alone (the adder) being venomous. 'Much interest has been excited by the discovery in England of the coronella kevis (see CORONELL'A), harmless snake, common in some parts of the continent of Europe. Much curious information occurs in Buckland's Curiosities-of Natural llistory.