Thanks for the great question from Mya Balogh, a third-grader in Greensboro, NC.
The answer is yes! Even though most snakes look like a head followed by a long tail, their actual tail is pretty small.
Many vertebrates (animals with backbones) seem to have a familiar-looking skeletal system. If you had x-ray glasses you’d see that dogs, cats, squirrels, and birds all share a similar build: a skull attached to a backbone, with a ribcage protecting their vital organs, and limbs like arms and legs attached.
In almost all those animals (except birds and some mammals), the flexible bones of the spine run the length of the tail.
Snakes aren’t that different, except that they don’t have limbs like arms and legs. They have an elongated body, with a ribcage that runs the entire length to protect their organs. After the ribcage ends, the tail bones continue for a relatively short distance. Species such as Rattlesnakes have a special adaptation on their tail, which they shake to warn those that come too close to stay back!
Check our sources!
UGA Savannah River Ecology Laboratory – Why Do All Reptiles Have Tails?
Oxford University Museum of Natural History – Animals Skeletons (PDF): http://www.oum.ox.ac.uk/educate/resource/aniskel.pdf
Carnegie Museum of Natural History – What is a Tail?
Written by Yates Austin, a life-long science geek who loves discovering and sharing new things about Earth and all its inhabitants, as well as space and the cosmos.
Illustrated by Isabel Yates @isabel.grey.art, a superstar high school student in Raleigh, North Carolina. Isabel is committed to answering your burning questions! Just ask!