KIDS ASK: Why Do Snakes Stick Out Their Tongues?

If you've ever seen a slithering snake stick out its tongue, perhaps you wondered if the snake was mocking you or... getting ready to strike.

When a snake sticks its forked tongue out, it is not meant as an act of mockery or aggression.  A snake’s tongue is a pretty cool tool that helps it know where it is going and what is lurking around it.  Snakes are not able to see with their eyes as well as humans can, so they must rely on their other senses. All snakes have a special organ that humans do not have; it is called the Jacobson Organ. This special organ is found on the root of the snake’s mouth, and its sole function is to keep the snake aware of its environment.

As the snake extends its tongue, it picks up small chemical particles from the environment and allows them to dissolves on its tongue. Once the particles have dissolved on the forked tongue, the snake pulls its tongue back in and puts the two points of the tongue into the openings of the Jacobson Organ. By doing this, the snake can then recognize smells and is keenly aware of what is around eat...and to avoid.