“Grandma! What big teeth you have!” As Little Red Riding Hood discovered, those were some big teeth that “Grandma” had. Let’s learn more about them.

Long, pointed teeth are called “fangs.” In mammals, fangs are also called “canine teeth.”

Although humans are mammals and have canine teeth, the canines of most humans are relatively short and aren’t considered to be fangs.

Many different types of creatures have fangs, including cats, tigers, dogs, spiders and, of course, snakes! Fangs are also popular features of fantasy creatures, such as dragons and vampires.

Like vampires, mammals use fangs to bite and tear flesh, such as when they eat meat. Predators use fangs to hold and quickly kill their prey.

Venomous snakes use their fangs in a unique way: to inject venom into their prey. Venom immobilizes — and sometimes kills — snakes’ prey.

Snake venom is a type of saliva produced by special glands. Venom contains a mixture of many different types of proteins and enzymes.

Many of these proteins and enzymes are harmless to humans, but some are toxic. Many venomous snakes have long, hollow fangs through which venom can be injected directly into prey.

When a snake uses its fangs to bite, muscles force venom from its storage glands through a duct into the hollow fang. Tiny holes at the ends of the fangs eject the venom directly into prey.

Some snakes have fangs at the back of their mouths. These fangs aren’t hollow. Instead, small grooves on the inside of the fangs direct venom into the wound caused by a bite.

If you’re wondering how some snakes with huge fangs keep from biting themselves, the answer is that their fangs fold! When they’re not being used, the fangs fold flat against the inside of the mouth.

You will often hear people refer to snakes as being poisonous or nonpoisonous. Would you believe there are technically no poisonous snakes?

By definition, poison must be inhaled or ingested (eaten). The venom that deadly snakes use to kill prey is injected. This is why scientists refer to snakes as either venomous or nonvenomous.

Scientists sometimes catch venomous snakes and “milk” the venom from their fangs by squeezing the venom sac in their heads to force the release of the venom into a container. They then use this venom to create a special medicine — called “antivenin” — that can be used to save the lives of people bitten by snakes.

 

62 Join the Discussion

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars  (35 votes, avg. 4.31 out of 5)
Loading...Loading...
    • Hi, Cassie! NONVENOMOUS snakes can make fun pets! Please be VERY careful if you’re not sure what type of snake it is, though! You should never approach or touch a snake in the wild! Thank you for letting us know what you thought about today’s Wonder of the Day®! :-)

    • We can’t wait either, Autumn! It’s going to be a WONDERful celebration! Thank you for being such an AWESOME Wonder Friend! :-)

  1. HAPPY BIRTHDAY WONDEROPOLIS!!!!
    I love the bit on snake venom.
    I never knew that it’s not poison because it’s injected. Very very, interesting! :)

    • We learned some new things from this Wonder of the Day®, too, Autumn! We won’t be calling snakes “poisonous” or “nonpoisonous” any more! Thank you for the early birthday wishes! We really appreciate them! :-)

  2. Cassie and I are sisters, and we both really want a snake. Someone we knew had one named Slinky, but they released him to the wild. This was a very awesome article. I especially liked the video because I was watching a T.V show and someone got bit by a poisonous snake, so that show shows people how much they have to be careful while being around dangerous animals. I watch and read your articles a lot and I really like them. Bye, P.S. Have a happy birthday. I will be sure to come to Wonderopolis tomorrow!

    • What an AWESOME comment, Missy! Thank you so much for taking the time to write to us and tell us how much you liked this Wonder and also for the birthday wishes! :-)

  3. P.S.S. When I went to an Arizona zoo, I actually got to touch a real life snake, who’s poison was extracted. It was real cool. I tried to get my mom to touch it, to but she hates snakes so she wouldn’t!

    • Your mom sounds like a really cool mom to dislike snakes so much, but still think about letting you and Cassie have one as a pet, Missy! You sound pretty brave for touching a snake, too! Thanks for being such a great Wonder Friend! :-)

  4. I have loved Wonderopolis ever since I have had to do homework on it, and it is so cool. It is life-changing to me! I LOOOOOVE WONDEROPOLIS AND I ALWAYS WILL!!!!

    • It makes us very happy to hear that visiting Wonderopolis has had such a positive influence on your homework habits, Missy! We love all of our Wonder Friends and appreciate comments from them! Thank you! :-)

  5. WOW! The video was interesting to some of us and a little gross to others. We learned a lot though! We learned that the venom comes through snakes teeth that are hollow like straws! Many of us have been to the Louisville Zoo and seen snakes up close and personal. We didn’t know that their teeth fold when their mouths are closed- what a neat fact! :)

    • We thought that was an interesting fact, too, Kerrick Elementary School! Do you think the snakes ever WONDER why their teeth fold back? :-)

  6. Hi,
    I’m Srikar from Mrs.Caplin’s class. I never knew that when a snake uses it’s fangs to bite, muscles force venom from its storage glands through a duct into the hollow fangs. How does the venom first get in the storage glands?

    • Hi there, Srikar! That’s an AWESOME question! We’re pretty sure the snake’s body makes the venom automatically and the glands get filled. Kind of like the human body makes things like tears or saliva. The snake probably doesn’t even know it’s happening, it just knows to bite and use its venom when the time comes. WONDERing about nature is really fun isn’t it? Thank you for leaving us a comment today! :-)

    • We’re glad you liked the video for this Wonder of the Day®, Michael! Thank you for telling us by leaving us this awesome comment! :-)

  7. Hi, I am from Mrs.Caplin’s class. I never knew that snakes are toxic. I saw in the video that they get out a little poison that can kill a person. I wonder why they are toxic and very poisonous and if the snakes reproduce their toxic?

    • Hi, Harshitha! We’re pretty sure the snake’s body reproduces the venom when they need a new batch. Thank you for visiting Wonderopolis and for leaving us a comment! :-)

    • We’re so happy to hear that, Madison! Thank you for letting us know you enjoyed exploring this Wonder of the Day®! :-)

  8. This is so cool. My computer teacher told me about this website and I love the wonder of the day, so I hope that you keep adding to this website. :)

    • We introduce a new Wonder of the Day® each and every day, Jordan! We’re happy to hear that you enjoyed today’s Wonder and we really appreciate your computer teacher telling you about us (thank him or her for us, won’t you?)! We hope you’ll visit us again very soon! :-)

  9. IT IS AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! IT’S ALSO MY FIRST TIME!

    • Hello, Eric! Welcome to Wonderopolis! We’re glad you stopped by this Wonder of the Day® today and left us this AWESOME comment! :-)

  10. I really like this wonder, but if my mom would ever see this wonder she would just freak out. She will never let me or my sister have a spider. I do not get that my mom lets us have a cat, but not a spider. I think that my mom has never seen my cats fangs so she is not freaking out over this. But once again, my mom would be really scared.

  11. Ummmm, I don’t like how those people are handling that snakes…snakes are my fave animal soooo…I don’t really like that video, sorry.

    • We respect and appreciate your opinion of the video for this Wonder, Jessie! Thank you so much for sharing it with us today! :-)

  12. Hi, WONDEROPOLIS,

    I WONDER if the snakes get hurt by their pointed fangs, also, I never thought that the fangs can bend so they don`t get killed by their own venom, do you think boas have venom? Thanks for the WONDERful WONDERS!

    Team Clark 19

    • Those are GREAT snake questions, Team Clark 19! We’re pretty sure boa constrictors don’t have venom, but they DO have sharp teeth! :-)

    • You can learn about how fangs work by exploring all the different parts of this Wonder of the Day®, Moa! It’s FULL of FUN facts about FANTASTIC fangs! :-)

  13. FANGS are awsome!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  14. dear wonderopolis

    I love snakes I like how they are poisonous and nonpoisonous. I know how a snake is poisonous or nonpoisonous. I know a way to tell if a snake is poisonous or not. If a snake has a cat’s eye it is poisonous. If it has a human eye it is nonpoisonous.
    love cj

    • Hey there, Wonder Friend CJ! It’s so cool that you’ve been WONDERing about snakes and fangs with us today! While snakes’ eyes may be different, there is another way to tell if a snake is poisonous; check out the excerpt below:

      “If you’re wondering how some snakes with huge fangs keep from biting themselves, the answer is that their fangs fold! When they’re not being used, the fangs fold flat against the inside of the mouth.

      You will often hear people refer to snakes as being poisonous or nonpoisonous. Would you believe there are technically no poisonous snakes?
      By definition, poison must be inhaled or ingested (eaten). The venom that deadly snakes use to kill prey is injected. This is why scientists refer to snakes as either venomous or nonvenomous.

      Scientists sometimes catch venomous snakes and “milk” the venom from their fangs by squeezing the venom sac in their heads to force the release of the venom into a container. They then use this venom to create a special medicine — called “antivenin” — that can be used to save the lives of people bitten by snakes.”

      We have another Wonder about snakes that you’ll enjoy, too: Wonder #647– What is the Largest Snake? http://wonderopolis.org/wonder/what-is-the-largest-snake/ :)

    • We hope you only have to Wonder about fangs, and you never actually encounter them, Wonder Friend Beau! Thanks for sharing your comment! :)

    • Hi Erick! They’ve worked with snakes before which gives them more confidence holding them! Have you ever seen a snake before? Thanks for WONDERing! :)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Share

  • Wonderopolis on Facebook
  • Wonderopolis on Pinterest
  • Print

Have you ever wondered…

  • How do fangs work?
  • Which animals have fangs?
  • Are snakes poisonous?

Wonder Gallery

Try It Out

Ready to learn more about venomous snakes? You might be surprised to learn that not all snake venom is toxic to humans.

Sometimes a snakebite might only make us sick. Of the approximately 725 species of venomous snakes around the world, only 250 of them are able to kill a human with a single bite.

How dangerous a particular snake is depends on many factors. How toxic is its venom? How much venom does it produce? How long are its fangs?

Check out the World’s Deadliest Snakes. You’ll be able to see pictures of the world’s most dangerous snakes and learn more about each species. You can also compare the world’s deadliest snakes on a variety of factors, including venom production, length of fangs and venom toxicity.

What venomous snakes live in your area? Knowing what to watch out for when you’re in the wild can help you avoid problems.

Learn more about the most common venomous snakes in North America, and find out about rattlesnakes, cottonmouths, copperheads and coral snakes.

 

Still Wondering

Check out National Geographic Education’s Snake Charmer lesson to learn about Zoltan Takacs, a scientist who travels the world to collect animal venoms!

 

Wonder Categories/Tags

Categories

Tags

canine  fang  inject  poison  snake  teeth  venom 

Wonder What’s Next?

You say it’s your birthday? It’s our birthday, too! Join us tomorrow for Wonderopolis’ 1-year-old birthday party!

Upload a Photo or Paste the URL of a YouTube or SchoolTube Video.