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The newest additions to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo were a surprise even to the keepers: eight Tentacled Snakes were born October 21 to parents that have not produced viable young in the past four years, despite breeding attempts. Tentacled Snakes are aquatic, produce live young and are ambush hunters. They use their tails to anchor themselves and wait underwater for their prey. They get their name from the unique tentacles that protrude from their snout and function as sensory mechanisms that allow the reptiles to pick up vibrations from fish that swim by.




“Within a few hours of being born, the snakes were already acting like adults,” said Matt Evans, Reptile Discovery Center keeper. “Instincts took over and they were hunting. We don’t know much about this cryptic species, but we’re already learning so much just watching them grow.”

Tentacled Snakes are native to the mangrove swamps of southeast Asia.  They can remain underwater for up to 30 minutes.  Known as rear-fanged snakes, their venomous fangs are located in the back of the mouth.  They are not considered dangerous to humans. 

The zoo’s four adult snakes are on exhibit at the Reptile Discovery Center, while the eight young snakes will likely be sent to other zoos when they get older. Only a few zoos exhibit this species, which is listed as Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Photo Credit: Brittany Steff, Smithsonian’s National Zoo.