The Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake

By Sarah Fox

The Integumentary System

The Eastern Diamondback Snake has keeled scales (keeled scales have a ridge down the center and have a dull, no-gloss surface), formed in a diamond pattern of overlapping diamond-shaped blotches of dark colors or dark and light colors down the middle of its back. Scales cover the whole outer body except their eyes and facial pit (which senses heat). This snake's body color is brownish and its tail is a different shade of either brown or gray. Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnakes have a "rattle" which is a grouping of keratin segments (substance that makes human finger nails) that when rubbed together make a rattling sound. Each time a rattlesnake sheds it adds another segment to its rattle. Once a new layer of skin is made and ready, the Rattlesnake--like most other snakes--rub against an object to release their head from their old skin and use muscle contractions to shed completely. Along with the skin they shed, Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnakes also shed their fangs, and are quickly replaced when one is lost.

The Muscular and Skeletal System

The Muscular System

The Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake has scutes (wider scales) located on the underside of the reptile that allow movement. There are hundreds of scutes on this snake, each individual scute containing a pair of ribs that has its own set of muscles. Because of the amount of separate muscles, the Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake is able (along with most other snakes) to lift parts of their body. These scutes push off the ground and move the snake forward.

The Skeletal System

The Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake has a backbone made of many vertebrate that is attached to ribs. Snakes can have up to and frequently have more then 400 vertebrate which make these reptiles so agile and flexible. The ribs are single-headed, curved, and do not wrap around completely. Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnakes have a skull with hinged jaws that allow the snake to consume prey that is larger then the snake is in diameter.


The Nervous System

The Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake has, similar to humans, a brain, spinal cord, nerves expanding from the spinal cord and brain, and sensory organs. All snakes have the Jacobson's organ, which allows the reptile to analyze smell and taste. The Jacobson Organ, is an organ that processes how the organism needs to respond to certain stimuli that it is exposed to. This organ is located in the skull region, above the tongue and behind the mouth. The brain of the Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake is quite small when compared to other reptiles such as alligators or crocodiles. Though their brain is small, that does not mean it is inferior when it comes to sending neurotransmitters in reaction to stimuli. Their spinal cord consists of spinal nerves, sensory nerve pathway, sensory root, spinal nerve, motor root, and a motor nerve pathway. All snakes lack moveable eyelids and the presence of an ear drum. The Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake relies on good eyesight as well as its tongue to sense smell and vibrations. The nervous system of this animal is not as complex as a human, yet it is more complex then worms, mollusks, and crustaceans.

The Respiratory System

Respiratory System

The Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake has, similar to humans, a trachea, bronchi, and lungs. In snakes the trachea is located at the back of the mouth (oral cavity) and extends into two bronchi. The left bronchus extends to the left lung, which most of the time is quite small or vestigial. A vestigial organ is small, degenerate, and non-functioning. The right bronchus extends to the right lung. The first portion of the lungs are vascular and contain blood vessels which allows for gas exchange. The second part of an Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake's lung is nonvascular, lacks blood vessels, and is an air sac that extends to the tail area. The air sacs regulate pressure in the body cavity. A snakes lungs are different sizes, in most cases the left lung is smaller than the right lung. Their respiratory system is quite complex compared to an echinoderm or sponge, but still not quite as complex as a human. Snakes lack a diaphragm, which is essential to human life, so air enters and leaves the lung due to movement of the ribs and body muscles.

The Circulatory System

Circulatory System

The Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake has a three chambered, double loop closed system heart which consists of two atria and an incomplete septum which divides the ventricle. The atria receive blood from the body and lungs, whilst the large ventricle pumps blood in the arteries and is taken away from the heart to the body. Also, forceful pumping of the heart is required based on the body size of snake. The Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake, along with other reptiles, have a unique adaptation that allows the blood in the tail to pass through the kidneys first, before returning to the general body circulation. This adaptation is known as the renal portal system. This is significant in an unhealthy reptile because if they are injected with a drug into its tail, the drug may lose some effectiveness since it passes through the kidneys first (the kidneys eliminate unwanted substances). Snakes do have a more complex Circulatory System because it is closed, unlike snails, slugs, and arthropods who have an open system.

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The Digestive and Excretory System

Digestive and Excretory System

The Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnakes are able to eat 40% of its body weight, in most cases eating small prey whole such as rats, lizards, and rabbits. Prey is consumed through the mouth where the animal injects venom into the it, the prey then travels down the esophagus. Depending on the size of the consumption, digestion can take several days. In the Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake, most digestion occurs in the stomach where digestive enzymes and gastric juices are secreted in order to break down the prey. The food then passes into the small intestine where the liver and pancreas secrete more digestive enzymes that allow the absorption and breakdown of the prey. It is then moved to the large intestine which carries the remnants to the cloacal opening where the feces exit through the rectum. The cloaca is a chamber that receives products from he digestive, urinary, and reproductive systems. Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnakes quite a complex digestive system compared to those of sponges and pores. The Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake has the most complex excretory system contained in an animal. Snakes rely on their kidneys to filter out ammonia which is changed to urea and is then sent to be released in the urine. The liver pancreas, and stomach all excrete enzymes that allow the breakdown of food and excretion of waste. Overall both the digestive and excretory system is not quite as complex as humans, but it is more evolved than the sponge and pore.

Reproductive System

Reproductive System

Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnakes use internal fertilization, where the eggs are fertilized inside the female's body by the male's sperm. When a female snake is ready to mate she secretes a scent called pheromones, and is left on everything she touches. If a matured male catches the scent he follows it, then courts the female, until she raises her tail which is a sign that she is ready to mate. The male snake then inserts his sex organs called hemipenes in the female that fertilize the egg. Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnakes mate in the spring and fall and give birth in the early summer and late fall. They have live births that contains litters up to 12-21 babies. Some mothers stay with their babies for several days and leave, while others leave directly after birth.


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