One of the most common asked questions about reptiles is: Why do snakes flick their tongues? All snakes, some lizards, and all cats have what’s called a jacobson’s organ on the roof of their mouth. A Jacobson organ is simply a hollow on the roof of a snake’s mouth that helps the snake to identify different scents.  Scents are actually microscopic gas molecules that are picked up, in this case, by a snakes flickering tongue. I’m sure you’ve noticed how a snake, along with many different lizards, have a forked tongue. The left and right fork both share the same job: pick up scent molecules. Let’s say the snake is hunting. When the snake flicks his tongue, and presses it up against his jacobson’s organ, the jacobson’s organ tells the snake whether the scent molecules belong to a mouse, a hawk, or something miscellaneous like a tree or plant.

Now, A snakes tongue is forked because it assists them in knowing which direction a scent is coming from. For example, if a snake is hunting, it will flick its tongue, and the jacobsons organ will tell the snake whether there are more scent molecules on the left fork, or the right fork, telling the snake whether to go left of right, towards the food source. The opposite applies for when the snake is evading predators, like the hawk mentioned earlier. If the snake detects more scent molecules on the right fork of it’s tongue, then it will go in the opposite direction, evading the predator.

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