Ask a Naturalist: How do snakes lay eggs?

March 09, 2021

Written by Kristen Angelini

Learn

We commonly get this question from visitors at the Nature Center or when children meet a snake up close. Since the snake does not have any visible openings, where do the eggs come from? Snakes, birds, amphibians, a small number of mammals, and species of elasmobranch fishes (cartilaginous animals such as sharks and rays) have a body part called a cloaca.

 

A cloaca is a shared cavity at the end of the digestive tract that the animals use to expel urine, feces, and carry out reproduction. If you are able to look closely at the underside of a snake, the cloaca is hard to spot to the untrained eye. It is hidden beneath a scale that is shaped slightly different compared to the other scute (belly) scales. This scale remains closed and only opens if being used, so it blends in well with the surrounding scute scales. 

A snake’s cloaca is generally located at the base of their tail around the same area where their many ribs come to an end. Next time you visit the Nature Center, ask a Naturalist or Animal Care volunteer to show you where you can find the cloaca on a snake so you can further your education on these wonderful creatures! 

 

Fun Fact: Snake eggs are flexible and leathery compared to bird eggs, which are much more fragile and break easily. Reptile eggs are shapeable and have more of a squishy texture!

Check out this incredible video of a kingsnake laying eggs!

 

Create 

Got any egg cartons lying around? Before you recycle them, follow this fun tutorial to transform them into your own snake!

Activate 

Make your own flexible "reptile" egg by following along this awesome science experiment! Click here (or the image below) for materials needed and instructions.