Why a Snake has a Forked Tongue

garter snake tongue macro

A snake showing his tongue usually scares people particularly the kids. Snakes have long, forked tongues. Their tongue is used for tasting and even touching. But they use them mostly for smelling. Even with its mouth closed, a snake can stick out its tongue. That’s because there’s a space in its upper jaw that the tongue fits through.

When the snake’s tongue out shoots, flicking up and down, it sniffs scents from the air and ground. Then the tongue slips back into the mouth. There are two openings on the roof of the snake’s mouth. They lead to a very sensitive spot called the Jacobson’s organ (which is an auxiliary olfactory sense organ that is found in many animals). The snake touches its tongue to this organ, rubbing off the scents it has collected. The Jacobson’s organ recognizes out the scents and sends a message to the snake’s brain. With this, the snake recognizes the things in his surroundings. It can be a meal, mate, or a potential enemy is nearby.

Ever wonder why a snake’s tongue is forked? Each point on the tip of the tongue fits into one of the openings to the Jacobson’s organ. If the odor is stronger on one side, the snake can tell which direction the odor is coming from. This is essential for the snake in order to track possible prey or in following the trail of a mate. It also allows the snake to find the way to an area where other snakes are gathering for the winter.

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