Why Do Snakes Bask?
Snakes, like other reptiles, are cold-blooded – they are unable to internally regulate their body temperature. On cool days If their body temperature is low, they are sluggish. They don’t move quickly, don’t hunt effectively and if they have food in their stomachs, digestion comes to nearly a standstill.
They avoid this situation by basking when cool weather sets in. They lay in the sunshine and/or on rocks or substrate that is heated by the sun, and warm up. When they get to an optimal temperature, they can be active, hunt and digest the food they eat. During these shorter, cooler fall days, before snakes enter hibernation, a great deal of time is spent basking.
There is an advantage to using sunlight to control body temperature. Warm-blooded animals must eat a large amount of food fairly continuously because it is the digestion of the food that regulates their body temperature and produces heat, which they must maintain in order to survive. Cold-blooded animals don’t have this restriction since their body temperature is controlled externally. This is why a snake can go for a relatively long period of time (months, depending on species) without eating after it has consumed food. (Photo: Common Gartersnake peering out from under leaves after its basking was disturbed)
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