SNAKE, a term synonymous with serpent.—The name COMMON SNAKE is very gen erally given in England to a species very abundant in most parts of that country. and throughout Europe from the s. of Scandinavia to the Mediterranean, although there is only one doubtful instance of its having been found in Scotland. Its range extends also over great part of the n. of Asia. This species (natrix torquata or tropidonotas matrix) is also known is the RINGED SNAKE and the GRASS SNAKE. It belongs to the family cola/emits, and to a section of it which some naturalists constitute into the family nat. riddce. It grows to the length of 4 and even 5 ft., although specimens exceeding 3 ft. are rare. The female, as in serpents generally, is much larger than the male. The head is ovate, the muzzle rather narrow, the back part considerably broader than the neck; the body thickens toward the middle, and again tapers toward the tail, which is about one-fifth of the entire length, tapering to a rather sharp point; the gape is wide; the upper part of the head covered with large plates; the scalesof the back have an elevated keel; those of the sides are larger, the keel merely rudimentary; the belly is covered with broad oblong plates; the under part of the tail has plates arranged in two rows. The teeth arc very small, directed backward, and arranged in two rows on each side the jaws. The upper parts are grayish brown, tinged with green; at the back of the head are two crescent-shaped bright yellow spots, forming a kind of ring or collar; immediately behind these are two broad black spots, sometimes confluent. Two rows of small black spots are arranged alternately clown the back, and larger ones at the sides; but these vary much in size and other particulars. The belly is pale lead color, often marbled with black. The outer skin is changed at intervals varying according to the weather and other circumstances. Mr. Ball says: "I have known the skin shed four or five times during the year. It is always throw u off by reversing it; so that the transparent covering of the dyes, and that of the scales also, are always found concave in the exu vial. Previously to this curious circumstance taking place, the whole cuticle becomes some what opaque, the eyes are dim, and the animal is evidently blind. It also becomes more or less inactive, until at length, when the skin is ready to be removed, being everywhere detached, and the new skin perfectly hard underneath, the animal bursts it at the neck, and creeping through some dense herbage, or low brushwood, leaves it attached, and comes forth in far brighter and clearer colors titan before." This snake is partial to damp situations, and often enters water, in which it swims with great ease, moving with singular gracefulness. It sometimes remains at the bottom for a considerable time. It sometimes climbs trees, its body, when ascending the stem, being "straight and rigid as a stick." See SERPENTS. It is very voracious; its food consists of frogs, small birds and
quadrupeds, etc. Its teeth being incapable of tearing, cutting, or masticating food, the prey is alwaysswallowed entire and living. Mr. Bell heard a frog emit a cry some minutes after it had been swallowed by a snake. The snake has no poison-fangs. It hats another kind of defensive armor, ih certain glands, which emit a volatile substance o1 most offen sive and penetrating odor, which, like that of the skunk, can hardly be removed from the skin or clothes. No such odor is emitted except in moments of irritation or other pission. The common snake is oviparous: its eggs—usually about fifteen or twenty in number, whitish, with a parchment-like skin, and united into a string by a glutinous substance —are deposited in moist and warm situations, often in dunghills. The mother is said sometimes to coil herself around them, but generally leaves them pnregarded. This snake is capable of being tamed, and becomes familiar with those who are kind to it, while the approach of a stranger, of a dog or cat, alarms it, and causes an emission of stench. In winter, it seeks some refuge from severe cold, and becomes lethargic or dormant. Large numbed of snakes often take refuge in one hole; but seldom so many as in an instance recorded by Dr. Carpenter, in which about 1300 were found iu an old lime kiln.
Much interest was excited in 1862 by the discovery in England of a species of snake, coronella lcrol:e (see CORONELLA and SERPENTS), previously unobserved in Britain, but common in the middle and s. of Europe, and sometimes distinguished by the name of ATJSTRIAN SNAKE, sometimes by that of SMOOTII SNAKE, none of the scales being ridged or keeled, as in the common snake. It inhabits much drier situations than those affected by the common snake, where it is often found in company with the sand lizard, situa tions more resembling those in which the viper is found. This snake is also more simi lar to the viper in form and appearance than the common snake, and these circumstances have probably led to its being often mistaken for the viper, and its existence in ELIO:old remaining unnoticed so long. It attains a length of about 2 ft. : is of a shining brown color, ornamented with checkered :fregular' patches of black; a yellow mark on the back and sides of the he Al; the lower parts yellowish, with square black spots. The head is not flattened, as in the viper, but is narrowed in a similar way toward the neck; there is much difference in the plates of the head; the yellow mark on the bead is a very char acteristic, distinction, and the back does not exhibit a broad zigzag pattern, as in the viper. Unlike the common snake, the coronella lads is ovoviviparous, the eggs being hatched within the mother. For an illustration of the corondia lwrLe, see SERPENTS.