Have you ever looked really closely at your snake and wondered; do they ever blink? do they ever close their eyes? do they even have eyelids?
These are all very valid questions to ask, and you are not alone in asking these questions, I have asked them myself, so I did some research to find them, and here is what I’ve found.
So, do snakes have eyelids? Snakes do not have eyelids, instead, they have what is called brilles or spectacles, which are layers of transparent membranes that don’t move but can cover the eyes and protect them from damage, but since it doesn’t move, snakes can’t blink or close their eyes when they sleep.
So, yes, snakes truly do sleep with their eyes open, but they do close their retinas while they are asleep to prevent the light from getting into their eyes and they can enjoy a restful sleep.
Of course, you now have a lot more questions, and this is completely normal. Having no eyelids is way more interesting than one would ever think it can be, so stick with me as I explain how do snakes protect their eyes, sleep, and cry without their eyelids…
Do Snakes Have Eyelids?
As explained earlier, snakes don’t have eyelids. No snake has eyelids, and this is actually true for most reptiles. Although some groups of reptiles have a translucent eyelid that does move horizontally across the eye to protect it, it’s not really an eyelid in the way we think of it on humans or mammals in general.
Fun fact: fish also don’t have eyelids and can’t close their eyes similar to snakes.
Why Don’t Snakes have eyelids?
Snakes do not have eyelids. Eye scales, often known as spectacles or brilles, are a snake’s specialized version of an eyelid. Snakes don’t have legs, so their eyes are in constant touch with the ground, swept with leaves, grit, and dust. This implies they require some sort of eye protection that protects the eyes from the environment and helps keep them moist.
The brilles work to do both of these things, as they are transparent and allow light in while keeping dust out, but also secrete a film over the eyes that helps keep them moist. Snakes will often fling their heads around when they’re shedding to help remove the old skin, and this also helps to keep their eyes clean.
How do Snakes Sleep with Their Eyes Open?
As mentioned earlier, snakes do sleep with their eyes open, but they do close their retinas while they are asleep in order to prevent the light from getting into their eyes and disrupting their sleep. The brilles work as a sort of natural blindfold for the snake, and they do not disturb their sleep.
The snakes’ brain controls their sleeping mechanism, and they may sleep with their eyes open. If you find this hard to believe, consider that humans don’t ‘shut off’ our ears when we sleep, for example. Even though we can hear before going to sleep, our brains actively block any sound pick up during slumber because they are turned off. The same is true for snakes – they do not close their eyes because they cannot, but rather because it’s not necessary with the brilles in place to keep out light and dust.
Does having Brilles or scaled affect the snake’s vision?
Is a layer of skin over the eyes detrimental to a snake’s vision? Because most brilles are completely transparent for the majority of their existence, they don’t affect their vision at all and snakes have excellent sight despite the scales.
Can you find this hard to imagine? just think of the billions of humans that live their daily lives with glass or lenses.
Snakes are colorblind, but they have two types of light receptors. One type, rods, allows them to see in dim light but is blurry. Cones, on the other hand, allow snakes to see clearly. This enables snakes to hunt effectively in their underground hideouts and also sees its food clearly with enough accuracy to properly strike it.
Snakes do not have eye lids, but they have transparent bells that protect their eyes while they crawl across the ground. Theremovable clear brilles on the snakes’ eyes give them perfectly clear and protected vision as they creep along.
How do Snakes Cry without Eyelids?
All reptiles, including snakes, produce tears, but they don’t cry in the way humans consider crying.
The fluid between the eyes and the spectacles is produced by tear glands behind the lenses. Nasolacrimal ducts carry the liquid to locations on the roof of the mouth. Snakes are unable to cry because their tears cannot flow down their faces as they do in humans due to the fact that they do not have eyelids the way mammals do, so the tears can’t overflow the eyelids.
Do Snakes Blink?
Since snakes do not have eyelids, they cannot blink in the way that humans do. However, they do have a sort of wink where they can close their brilles for a moment to clear their eyesight. This happens when the snake is threatened or trying to intimidate another animal.
Shedding their Brilles or Spectacles
Because the eye scales are attached to the skin, they come off with it. Snakes shed once or twice a year in adulthood, but newborn snakes shed up to four times per year. Before shedding, snakes’ eyes become opaque and milky-looking as they secrete a milky fluid between the old and new layers to assist separation. To help remove the old skin, snakes will often flick their heads around vigorously.
What if the old brilles or spectacles are not removed?
Some snakes will face trouble while shedding their skin, and since the brilles are part of their skin, they, too, can get stuck during the shedding.
Troubles happen when the brille separates from the shredded skin and get stuck on the top of their eyes instead of getting removed with the old skin.
The brille will then become what is referred to as “retained spectacle”, which is a serious health problem that needs to be addressed, thankfully, if you know what you’re doing, it’s pretty easy to handle this issue.
How to know your snake has “retained spectacles”?
If your snake is shedding and you notice that their eyes seem cloudy, there is a chance the old brille is still on the top of their eyes. Another way to identify the problem is by looking for the old shed skin, which should be in one piece as in the picture below:
You may think it’s a good idea to leave it to the skin to handle it, but this will only cause the problem to get worse because a stuck brille is a great breeding ground for bacterial infections. If your snake could remove the stuck spectacle, it would have done so already with the rest of its skin. Your snake now needs your help.
How to remove the retained spectacles?
The easiest way to go about removing the retained spectacles would be with a warm bath. Give your snake multiple warm baths on a few days and see if this removes the spectacles, and it usually does.
If after a few days of warm baths you can still see your snake’s eyes being cloudy or foggy, you shouldn’t try to remove the attained skin on your own unless you are absolutely sure you can do it. Remember; all snakes bite, and even the gentle of snakes will bite their owner if you cause them pain.
Retained Spectacles prevention tips
The most common cause of retained spectacles on snakes is a lack of humidity in the habitat. The skin gets dry as a result of low humidity. As a consequence, it does not come off in one piece as it should and leaves behind patches instead.
If you don’t know what is the right temperature or humidity for your snake, I have a table with the right temperatures and humidity for all the popular snakes in this guide to why do snakes try to escape their cages here so make sure to check it out.
There are a few more possible reasons for your snake to have glasses. Malnutrition or mites/bacterial infections are two examples.
Make sure your snake has enough to eat, and that it is free of illness or other type of sickness. Consult your veterinarian if you feel your snake is ill but cannot cure it yourself.
Do Snakes have eyelashes?
No, snakes do not have eyelashes. Eye lashes are a feature that is only found on mammals and no reptile has eyelashes, although it would have been kind of awesomely weird for snakes to have them.
Speaking of things that would look weirdly awesome or awesomely weird, have you heard the common myth that older snakes grow beards? It’s exactly as crazy as it sounds, and you can learn more about it in my article on can snakes have hair or beards here.
Do snakes have eyelids? They do not, and this is a good thing for them. As reptiles, they do not produce any tears to bathe their eyes with and so rely on licking themselves clean or rubbing against something moist (e.g., grass) in order to keep their eyes from drying out too much.
If you do find that your snake’s vision is cloudy, it most likely means there is an old spectacle stuck on top of the eye, which should be removed as soon as possible before it causes infection.
Do Snakes close their eyes?
Snakes can’t close their eyes since they don’t have eyelids, but they do close their retinas while they go to sleep to enjoy a peaceful sleep.
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