9 Gorgeous Snake Species Around the World

Yellow juvenile green tree python hanging on branch
Juvenile green tree python.

Mark Kostich / Getty Images

In 2014, there were more than 3,000 described snake species around the world, and that number is constantly growing. With that kind of variety, it's no surprise these slithering critters come in so many colors, patterns, and sizes.

In a 2014 survey by the polling body YouGov, more Americans cited a fear of snakes than a fear of heights, public speaking, spiders, small spaces, and eight other common phobias. Indeed, snakes were the top fear of all, scaring 64% of the 1,000 people polled. The other 36%? They must see the beauty in these limbless reptiles.

You probably will, too, after you see these nine absurdly gorgeous species.

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Sri Lankan Pit Viper (Trimeresurus trigonocephalus)

Sri Lankan pit viper snake wrapped around bamboo

Utopia_88 / Getty Images

The wetlands and grasslands of Sri Lanka are the only places in the world to which this small, roughly two-foot-long species is endemic. The Sri Lankan pit viper is noted for its green and black coloration and large triangular-shaped head. Males have a blue tint to them while females are more green in color.

This pit viper's hue is part of a camouflage technique, it turns out. Its second line of defense: hemotoxins. This venomous snake's bite can bring blisters and even death to humans bitten.

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Asian Vine Snake (Ahaetulla prasina)

Green snake in crooked shape, hanging from vine in forest

ePhotocorp / Getty Images

This snake has an extraordinary geometric pattern. When the vine snake feels threatened, it expands its body, pronouncing the pattern by revealing the black and white between its bright-green scales. When relaxed, the snake has a very slender, nearly fluorescent green body. Vine snakes are also noted for their long, pointy, almost beaklike snouts.

They occur in a variety of habitats, from both dry and moist forests to plantations to urban gardens, throughout Southeast Asia.

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Green Tree Python (Morelia viridis)

Green snake with large head coiled and draped on branch

Tyson Harriger / Getty Images

The green tree python is, of course, best known for its coloring. The vivid green coloration of adults helps it blend in with its tropical rainforest habitat in New Guinea, Indonesia, and Australia's Cape York Peninsula.

Juvenile green pythons can be bright yellow, vibrant red, or even a very dark brown for the first six months to one year of their lives. While gorgeous in its adult coloration, this arboreal snake is also stunning when it's young and going through color changes.

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San Francisco Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis tetrataenia)

Orange and blue snake with head raised on hay

R. Andrew Odum / Getty Images

Considered endangered in the state of California where it resides, the San Francisco garter snake has a stunning color pattern of dark orange, turquoise, black, and deep coral. Although the snake can grow to up to three feet in length, it is harmless to humans.

Found primarily near water, the San Francisco garter snake's red tongue with black tips is thought to lure fish and other prey.

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Eyelash Viper (Bothriechis schlegelii)

Orange viper on green plant against black background

David A. Northcott / Getty Images

Named for the scales that protrude above its eyes, this bizarre-looking snake is both highly venomous and beautiful. Eyelash pit vipers come in a variety of color variations including bright yellow, pink, green, and brown. Yellow eyelash pit vipers are often found in banana trees where they blend in easily. Their keeled scales are particularly rough to the touch, but the adaptation is thought to protect them against the branches they climb while hunting for food.

These snakes live in forests and streamside vegetation throughout the Americas as north as Mexico and as south as Colombia.

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Banded Sea Krait (Laticauda colubrina)

Striped sea krait swimming in underwater reef

richcarey / Getty Images

Beautiful snake species inhabit the ocean, too. Also called the yellow-lipped sea krait, the banded sea krait's characteristic yellow marking extends across its lip and under its eyes. It has a series of 20 to 65 black bands around its smooth body.

An amphibious species that lays eggs on land but feeds in the ocean, the banded sea krait has valved nostrils and a paddlelike tail that allow it to swim and hunt for prey in water.

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Brazilian Rainbow Boa (Epicrates cenchria)

Coiled iridescent spotted boa in orange light

Daniel Velho / 500px / Getty Images

Primarily brown or reddish-brown in color, the trait that stands out the most in this boa species is the iridescent shimmer of its scales. This striking feature is most prominent after shedding. Brazilian rainbow boas, which can range from four to six feet in length, have black stripes on the top of their heads and black rings down their backs.

They live in lower Central America, inhabiting rainforests and humid woodlands but also savannas.

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Formosa Odd-Scaled Snake (Achalinus formosanus)

Formosa odd-scaled snake on mossy ground, shimmering iridescent under light

Sin Syue Li / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-2.0

Another snake species that shimmers with rainbow iridescence is the Formosa odd-scaled snake found in Taiwan and the southern islands of Japan. The snake has a small head and small, black, beadlike eyes. The most common coloration in adults is olive, grayish tan, or black. Young Formosa odd-scaled snakes are usually black.

Odd-scaled snakes—of which there are 23 recognized species—are called so because their scales lay flat instead of overlapping.

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Scaleless Corn Snake (Pantherophis guttatus)

Orange snake with diamond pattern wrapped around branch

bugphai / Getty Images

Corn snakes come in a variety of colors from orange to brownish-yellow, depending on their age and where they're found. Other identifying features include alternating black and white markings on their underside. An interesting variation on the corn snake is the scaleless corn snake, which has few to no scales on its body.

A lack of scales is a natural genetic mutation that has been witnessed in the wild. Even scaleless snakes typically have ventral scales on their bellies that help them move across various terrain.

Corn snakes have a docile, gentle nature and are nonvenomous which has made them popular as pets.

What's the Purpose of Different Colors and Patterns in Snakes?

The pattern and color diversity in snakes is practically limitless. Mostly, their bodies are meant to protect them as much as possible from predators and help them hunt. Studies have shown that longitudinal stripes correlate with rapid escape speed, indicating that they could help camouflage snakes during movement. Blotched patterns are associated with ambush hunting and spotted patterns with "close proximity to cover."

While the link between venom and pigmentation is still unclear, many poisonous snakes exhibit highly saturated "warning colors."

View Article Sources
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  2. "Agh! Snakes! America's Top Phobias Revealed." YouGov. 2014.

  3. "Bothriechis Schlegelii (Eyelash Viper)". Animal Diversity Web.

  4. "Banded Sea Krait". Aquariumofpacific.Org.

  5. "Brazilian Rainbow Boa". Smithsonian's National Zoo.

  6. Allen, William L., Roland J. Baddeley, Nick Scott-Samuel, Innes C. Cuthill. "The Evolution and Function of Pattern Diversity in Snakes." Behavioral Ecology. 2013.