Overall, timber rattlesnakes have evolved and adapted to their environment profoundly well.  For example, they contain many sensory organs that allow them to detect the presence of other organisms in the area.  Some of these sensory organs include two facial pits located on either side of the head that detect body heat, a thin tongue that can absorb chemicals and molecules in the air, and an organ in the mouth, called Jacobson’s organ, that can identify these molecules to determine where and what they came from.  All of these organs have successfully enabled the rattlesnake to capture its prey and evade predators.  C. horridus also contains a pair of large, venomous fangs that aid in food acquisition and protection in a very efficient way.  By using these deadly fangs, C. horridus can terminate their prey and predators in a very short amount of time without having to expend a lot of energy.


 The skin of C. horridus is composed of tough, dry, overlapping scales made of keratin that aid in retaining water.  Besides keeping the rattlesnakes hydrated, these keratinized scales are also very important in motility.  Since timber rattlesnakes do not have any limbs, they move by slithering along the ground, instead of walking or crawling like other animals do.  The scales located on the ventral side of the rattlesnake are much smoother and shinier than the scales found on the rest of the body and therefore permit the rattlesnake to move swiftly and efficiently along the substrate without much hindrance.  In order to keep its skin in mint condition, C. horridus will shed its skin one to three times a year for the rest of its life.  Another adaptation that timber rattlesnakes have is the ability to use their skin color to blend in with their surroundings in order to hide from predators and ambush prey. 

Timber rattlesnakes are characterized by having dark bands or chevrons running the length of their dorsal surface and have been known to possess skin colors ranging from light yellow to brown, and gray to black.  In fact, C. horridus has two color morphs, one being yellow, the other being black.  The black morph is most prevalent in the northern regions of the country where dark, wooded areas are dominant. Basically, morphs are animals that bear unique patterns and colorations within a single brood.  This variation in color patterns and shapes improves the rattlesnake's ability to blend in with its environment.  An example of this "camouflage" can be seen in the picture to the right where the rattlesnake blends in very well with the rust-colored leaves.

                            yellow morph                                                                                   black morph

One very prominent feature that C. horridus has adapted is a black-colored rattle located at the end of its tail.  These rattles, which begin as small button-like structures, are made up of many horny segments that help determine how many times an adult rattlesnake has shed its skin.  Each time the skin is shed, another ring is added to the rattle, therefore, full grown rattlesnakes have much larger rattles with many more rings.  The rattle is also an important defense mechanism  because it warns other organisms to stay away when  C. horridus is present within the area.



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