Do snakes eyes glow in the dark?

Do snakes eye glow in the dark?

Have you ever seen a glowing eye at night? Perhaps you might have not, but I have.  I’ve seen the eyes of dogs glow at night and even those of cats. But what about the slithering creatures? Do snakes eyes glow in the dark? The answer is yes: a snake’s eyes may glow in the dark, but not like those of other animals; it’s a little bit complicated with snakes.

According to a herpetologist, it is a little difficult to see a snake’s eye glow at night. For a snake’s eye to glow in the dark, the light has to be reflected at the right angle. This seldom happens, but when it does, they give off a red or yellow reflection.

This is not the case for other animals. Other animals give off a brighter reflection in the dark. The colors they reflect vary. For example, coyotes, dogs, and wolves have a fiery white eyeshine. A bobcat’s eye will glow yellowish-white, while bears will give off a fiery orange glow at night.

Do snakes have eyeshine?

The phenomenon that results in an animal’s eye glowing at night is called eyeshine. Let’s get this straight. Eyes don’t really glow because they are not luminous; however, some animals’ eyes are able to reflect light when a beam of light is pointed at them. This is possible because of the tapetum lucidum. “Tapetum lucidum” means “shining layer” in Latin.

The tapetum lucidum is like a mirror that is located at the back of the pupil. when a beam of light enters the eye, most of it falls on the photoreceptors in the retina,  but some miss. Those that miss the photoreceptors fall on the tapetum lucidum. The tapetum lucidum then reflects the extra light back, thereby giving it another chance to hit the photoreceptors and lighten the landscape for the owner to see. The light reflected causes the phenomenon called eyeshine. Eyeshine varies in color among different animal species, this is because there are different mineral contents in the tapetum lucidum in various animals.

Snakes do not have a tapetum lucidum, so their mechanism of eyeshine is not the same as that of other animals. The reason why you can see a red light reflecting from a snake’s eye is as a result of light bouncing off the retina and back through the capillaries. Eyeshine from snakes is not super shiny like that of cats, dogs, and other nocturnal mammals. It has been discovered that not all animals with eyeshine are equipped with a tapetum lucidum. A good example of this is a spider. Spiders do not have tapetum lucidum, but they exhibit bright eyeshine, ie an eyeshine that is comparable to the super shiny glow exhibited by animals like cats, dogs, and other nocturnal mammals.

Notice the shiny eyes of the python in this video.

Can snakes see at night?

There are more than 300 species of snakes. Some are nocturnal, while others are diurnal. Some can see well in the dark, while others can’t. Nocturnal snakes are able to see well in the dark because their eyes are equipped with lenses that allow ultraviolet light in, thus helping them see objects clearly at night.

Do snakes have night vision?

Yes, but not all snakes. Snakes like pit vipers, pythons, and boas are equipped with night vision eyes. Just like night vision goggles, they have heat-sensitive holes called pits located between their eyeballs and nasal openings. This structure helps them see IR radiation within one meter; therefore, they are able to produce thermal images at night.


A snake’s eye can glow in the dark if the light pointed at it is at the right angle. The eyeshine commonly exhibited by snakes is usually a yellow or red glow; however, this depends on the type of snake. Snakes, unlike other animals with eyeshine, do not have a tapetum lucidum. This could be the reason why they don’t have bright eyeshine like other nocturnal animals.

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