7 Amazing Facts About Scaleless Snakes

scaleless snake on hand

Scales are one of the defining features of snakes. However, nature always has a way of making rarer versions of everything.

In this case, the scales are gone! Yes, you heard right. Scaleless snakes have taken the interest of the snake lovers community for several reasons we will discuss later.

Although, when it comes down to it, all snakes are not so different whether they have scales or not. It’s just more of an area of interest for researchers and snake lovers.

Let’s go over a few facts about the scaleless snake.

Why Are These Snakes Without Scales?

scaleless snakes

It’s easy to rule this characteristic as a problem or defect. However, it is just a genetic mutation. Just as our appearance as humans is controlled by a set of genes, so is theirs. Therefore even a slight change in the makeup of a certain gene will change a feature in such an organism.

Here, the gene affected is the one that controls the production of scales. It is a recessive trait, therefore can be passed down to offspring.

The best thing to compare this to is albinism in humans.

Different Species Can Be Scaleless

scaleless snake

This mutation is not specific to one species of snake as some people might think. Several species of snakes have been found to possess this singular trait.

However, the most common is the scaleless corn snake. Others include the ball python, garter snake, gopher snake and Texas rat snake.

Age Does Not Define Scalelessness

Snakes without scale do not eventually start developing scale as they grow older. This mutation is permanent and does not change with age.

So once a snake is scaleless, it remains so for life. There’s no need for pity, there’s a silver lining.

Are Scaleless Snakes completely Scaleless?

ventral scales of a scaleless snake

Well, the word “scaleless” is sort of exaggerated. Yeah, most parts of the snake you can see will be without scales, but some parts are still covered.

Fortunately, they still have scales over their bellies. This allows them to move freely as these “ventral scales” grip the surface and let the snake pull itself forward.

In many cases, the scales covering their eyes are also present. This prevents the snake’s eyes from drying out.

Moreover, many scaleless snakes have a scanty amount of scale splattered all over the body in no particular pattern. And it is unique for each snake.

Do These Unique Snakes shed?

scaleless snake shedding

This stands as one of the commonest questions people ask about scaleless snakes.

To put it shortly, yes they do.

When it comes to shedding, snakes shed their skin and not scales. Therefore snakes without scales shed just like their counterparts with scales.

Where the difference comes is in the shredded skin. For a normal snake, the shed skin is thick because it contains scales as well. However, for scaleless snakes, the cast-off skin is thin and smooth.

Some snake enthusiasts have likened the shed skin of a scaleless snake to that of a latex balloon.

Are They Dehydrated?

scaleless snakes

As we know, one of the major functions of the snake scale is to retain moisture and prevent dehydration. So one might easily conclude that scaleless snakes are most likely to be dehydrated.

However, research and science have refuted that possibility.

Researchers at the University of California studied the rate of water loss between normal snakes and scaleless snakes. The result was surprising as scaleless snakes lost water at equal rates or even lesser than normal snakes.

This means that there’s been a mechanism developed in scaleless snakes to keep them moist and free of dehydration. This is nature compensating for a perceived disability.

How Do Scaleless Snakes Look Compared To Their Scaly Counterparts?

colorful scaleless snake

First of all, the colour of a snake is dependent on the pigments within the skin. Therefore it has nothing to do with the scales. The mutation of a scaleless snake would not affect its colour.

On the brighter side, snakes without scales look more vibrant than normal snakes.


For the normal snakes, their colour is seen through the transparent layer created by scales and this tends to muddle the colour. Without the scales, the colour of a scaleless snake’s skin appears more bright and vibrant to the eye.

What Are The Possible Problems Facing Scaleless Snakes?

Dehydration is one of the perceived problems for these unique snakes. However, research has shown that it is not a threat.

Additionally, scales serve as protection for snakes. An armour of sort, if you may. So one might think that snakes without scales are more prone to injuries.

While this might be valid, there hasn’t been substantial evidence to prove it right or wrong. However, in a certain study, wild scaleless snakes were caught and examined. And the result showed that they had the same amount of scars as normal snakes.

Therefore this challenges the notion that scaleless snakes are more vulnerable. More evidence is needed to clarify this fact.

Why The Interest In Scaleless Snakes?

Human nature is always curious about things outside the norm. Most snake lovers develop an extra interest in scaleless snakes due to this mutation that makes their colour more bright and vibrant.

However, we tend to overstretch the boundaries of nature whenever we can. And this is evidenced by snake breeders trying to reproduce more of this scaleless snake.

It gets worse as breeders are trying to reproduce snakes with lesser and lesser scales. This will result in impaired motion and a host of other problems we’re not aware of yet.

Albino Corn Snakes

albino corn snake

Corn snakes are the most common scaleless snake known to man. All the features we’ve talked about above also applies to the scaleless corn snake.

Corn snakes morph or shed like any other snake and leave their skin behind. Their shed skin, as earlier said, is very thin and smooth. Below are a few pictures of the albino corn snake.