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FutureStarrWhy Are There No Snakes in Ireland?
Ireland lacks snakes for several reasons. These include climate, geographical isolation and water.
During the Ice Age, Ireland and Britain were too cold for reptiles to survive; therefore, you'll only find three species of snakes in Great Britain and none elsewhere.
While you might be tempted to wonder why Ireland is free from snakes, there are several factors that could have prevented them from ever making the journey. The first is climate.
Ireland is an island, and due to its surrounding water, it is not naturally conducive to reptiles. As a result, there have been no snakes in Ireland for thousands of years.
In the last Ice Age, which lasted from 120,000 to 10,000 years ago, there was a land bridge connecting Ireland and Britain. Unfortunately, this made Ireland too cold for snakes and other reptiles to survive. When the ice receded and sea levels rose again, cutting off this land bridge and making migration impossible for snakes.
Another obstacle that would have made the journey impossible was that the seas around Ireland were too cold for snakes to survive. Since snakes are cold-blooded creatures, their bodies require warm water in order to function properly.
These climate conditions have largely prevented snakes from crossing the Irish Sea, and it's believed they contributed to the extinction of wild boar, lynx and brown bear that once roamed this land. Despite all these obstacles, Ireland remains one of few countries worldwide free from snakes.
The reason is straightforward: Crossing the ocean requires a great deal of energy from any creature, especially a reptile. Simply put, reptiles cannot survive in such harsh conditions.
This explains why New Zealand, Iceland and Greenland are free of snakes. Each has a watery border which blocks snake migrations.
Britain and Ireland share three types of snakes, while Ireland does not. It takes a lot of energy for snakes to travel from Europe to Britain and back again, and before the ice age took its toll, these slithering creatures simply didn't have time for such an extensive journey.
Climate regulation is essential for human health and well-being. Not only does it regulate temperature, rainfall and other elements that impact humans directly; but it also safeguards ecosystems that in turn supply food, shelter and other resources to people.
Ireland is one of the few places on Earth where snakes do not naturally occur. This doesn't reflect some mysterious supernatural power; rather, it stems from geographic isolation.
Tens of thousands of years ago, continents and islands began to fragment from a single land mass due to what is known as continental drift. This movement is caused by tectonic plates shifting and pushing the land masses apart.
Over time, physical separation between continents creates obstacles that prevent populations from breeding with one another, disrupting gene flow and leading to speciation. As a result, two isolated populations of an animal will resemble one another but differ due to their environment.
Isolation can occur for many reasons, such as founder effects and differences in biotic factors (food availability and competition) as well as abiotic elements like climate and water quality. Eventually one population will diverge from others and become its own species.
For instance, the pygmy three-toed sloth evolved after 8,900 years of isolation from mainland populations of brown-throated sloths - proof that geographic isolation can be a major force in speciation.
Geographic isolation can also have detrimental effects on a population, particularly if it is small and exposed to environmental changes not experienced by its parent group.
Darwin's finches are an iconic example of geographical isolation that led to the evolution of nearly 15 different species. Each finch population exhibits distinctive morphological characteristics due to selective pressures unique to it, which allowed each to persist and thrive.
On Guam's desert valley, nine pupfishes live in physicochemically stable springs that have evolved separately due to being separated by hundreds of kilometers in water. This also contributes to the spread of brown tree snakes which are decimating the island's native bird population.
Though snakes are generally not a problem in other parts of the world, some have made their way to Ireland. These large and potentially lethal creatures should not be kept as pets.
Water is the molecular glue that holds together everything on Earth. Its many unique properties enable vital chemical reactions and preserve cell shapes - none other molecule can match them, making it essential to life on our planet.
Climate science indicates that water plays a significant role in our climate system, covering roughly three quarters of Earth's surface in both solid and liquid form. Furthermore, it exists as an atmospheric gas.
Water is one of Earth's most intriguing substances, with its asymmetrical molecular structure which baffles many scientists. Not only that, but water also serves as an excellent solvent for many different substances due to its transparency, tastelessness and odorlessness.
Snakes cannot survive in Ireland due to its surrounding ocean. Snakes need temperatures above freezing in order to thrive, making crossing over the Irish Sea impossible.
Ireland does have native reptiles that are non-venomous. Common examples include the common lizard, which can be found in bogs, grasslands and uplands across the island. Other species found here include natterjack toad, smooth newt and leatherback turtle.
Though non-venomous, these snake species can still cause serious injuries and pose a danger to those who do not know how to avoid them. That is why some people in Ireland are reportedly trying to rid themselves of their snakes by setting them free or releasing them into the wild.
Ireland is not the first time people have attempted to free their pets or let them run wild on the island. During the late 20th century, snakes became a popular novelty pet; owning one was seen as an expression of wealth or an exclusive taste.
At the end of the last ice age, between 120,000 and 10,000 years ago, snakes were unable to survive due to extreme cold. As the ice melted away, land connected Ireland to Britain and Europe emerged; but by then it was too late for snakes to cross over the Irish Sea and reach Ireland.
Ireland is one of the few places on Earth without snakes, joining Iceland, Greenland, New Zealand and Hawaii as member states in a club dedicated to snake-free living.
Ireland has not reported any snake sightings to date, which may be attributed to its proximity to water which may have prevented snake migrations thus far.
Similar to Guam, which lies off the coast of Asia but lacks any large land masses that could support reptiles due to oceanic separation, New Zealand, Iceland and Greenland are free from such creatures.
Although it's possible that snakes once lived in Ireland, their chances were gone by the time Europe was divided into continents and islands tens of thousands of years ago. At that time, temperatures had dropped during an ice age that kept Ireland too cold for cold-blooded reptiles to survive.
At around 10,000 years ago, the last ice age ended and Ireland emerged as its own land mass. This created the 12-mile-wide North Channel between Ireland and Scotland which made it difficult for snakes to cross over.
Since then, no snakes have crossed the North Channel into Ireland and there have not been any since. This makes Ireland unique among other countries in that it is free from snakes.
Many still hold that St. Patrick drove the snakes from Ireland during his conversion of it from paganism to Christianity. As such, he is celebrated as a Saint in Catholicism on March 17th, often depicted wearing a Shamrock as an act of gratitude for his efforts.
Some versions of the story tell of Patrick giving a sermon from a hilltop that drove all snakes from Ireland. Others recount him throwing a shamrock at them, causing them to scatter into the ocean.
For centuries, the legend of Saint Patrick driving away the snakes from Ireland has captivated imaginations even among non-Catholics. However, there is no proof to back up this assertion.
The number of continents is often debated. Some experts claim there to be five continents (excluding Antarctica), while others hold that there are six.
Ultimately, the number of continents depends on how they are defined. Generally speaking, seven are considered: Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, North America and South America.
Around the world, continents occupy a significant portion of Earth's surface. According to some scientists, they make up around 3.5 percent of our planet's total land area.
South America is the fourth largest continent in the world and as of 2005 had a population of more than 371 million people. It's mostly surrounded by water and divided into 12 independent countries plus French Guiana's overseas department.
The western portion of South America is dominated by the Andes Mountains, while its eastern edge has been shaped by large basins such as Amazon, Parana and Orinoco river systems.
South America, like other regions around the world, has been heavily shaped by a range of cultures. These include Native American, Spanish, Portuguese and European influences.
Today, most people in South America speak either Spanish or Portuguese. However, there are still numerous minority languages and traditions present.
Brazil, Colombia and Argentina are the three largest countries in South America. These nations are largely composed of immigrants from Europe and Africa.
South America is predominantly Christian, though a small number of people follow other religious faiths such as Judaism, Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, Baha'i and Shinto.
In South America, there are numerous indigenous groups with strong cultural and religious traditions. Most live in rural areas and tend to be hunter-gatherers.
In the 1500s, foreign conquistadors claimed land in South America for their sponsoring countries. This created considerable tension and conflict between rival empires. By the late 19th century, South America had undergone a rapid transformation from colonialism to independence.
Most people are aware of the six continents on Earth: Africa, Asia, America, Europe, Australia/Oceania and Antarctica. But our planet is much more than just these six countries.
For example, the Sahara is the world's largest desert, covering 8.5 million square kilometers (3.3 million square miles). Ergs (sand dunes), regs, hamadas and oases make up much of this barren expanse. Furthermore, it features several unique physical features such as a rift valley and Swahili Coast that runs 1,610 kilometers along the Indian Ocean from Somalia to Mozambique.
Africa's natural resource is its equatorial rainforests, which cover 80 percent of the continent. Here you can find an array of plant and animal life like African forest elephants (Loxodonta cyclotis), gorillas (Gorilla spp.), and black colobus monkeys (Colobus satanas).
The Sahara Desert is renowned for its annual migration of wildebeest, which move in a circle along the Serengeti Plains. This activity helps maintain the grasses that these animals graze on.
Other major wildlife populations in Africa include zebras (Equus quagga), lions (Panthera leo), and giraffes (Giraffa camelopardalis). Some countries, like Botswana, Kenya, and South Africa have been designated World Heritage Sites due to their stunning natural splendor.
Africa boasts many ancient cities and monuments. Egypt's pyramids, as well as Ethiopia's monolithic churches, are two of the most iconic structures on the continent.
Africa is a diverse continent that boasts abundant natural resources and human potential. It holds the potential to foster inclusive growth and eradicate poverty across its 54 countries, with over 1 billion inhabitants (half of whom will be under 25 years old by 2050) that comprise its diverse culture.
In the world, there are seven continents. These include Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Antarctica, Europe and Australia.
A continent is an expansive area of land divided into regions and countries. It's defined by its tectonic plates, which move over the surface of Earth's crust and oceans.
Asia, the largest continent by area, covers 31 million square kilometers (12 million square miles). It includes extremes like Saudi Arabia's deserts and Egypt's tropical rainforests, Indonesia's Himalayan mountain ranges and Tibet and Siberia's mountain ranges.
These extremes are the result of the collision of tectonic plates. In the past, the core of India slid northeastward to collide with Asia's southern flank; this movement continues today. This has left behind mountains, plateaus and other physiographic features that dominate this vast continent filled with densely populated inhabitants.
Asia is home to some of the world's largest economies, including China, India and Japan. Additionally, it serves as an important trading hub for commodities, minerals and energy.
Asian countries boast a diverse population with many different races, languages and cultures. Some of the world's major religions originated here too - Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism and Islam being just four examples.
Asia's major economies include China, India, Indonesia and Singapore. These nations are renowned for their abundant natural resources such as oil and gas reserves, as well as being among the leading exporters of goods.
Recently, Asia has seen a meteoric rise in manufacturing as companies from Europe, North America and Japan poured into these countries to take advantage of cheap labour and well-developed infrastructure. Now these countries represent some of the biggest growth engines for global corporations.
What is the exact number of continents on Earth? Various geographers believe there to be only six or seven: Africa, Antarctica, Asia, Europe, North America and Oceania/Australia.
Australia and New Zealand are two of the world's largest countries, boasting a combined population of 24 million people. Yet their region also contains several smaller nations and islands with small populations such as Niue (population 2,400), Tokelau, Fiji, Tonga, and Palau - all located within this vast oceanic domain.
Oceania consists of 14 independent countries, the largest being Australia which covers more than 86% of the area.
In the region, there are 11 Pacific Island countries and various dependent territories. Australia boasts the most populous country at 24.7 million, followed by Papua New Guinea (8.4 million) and New Zealand at 4.7 million each.
Other significant countries in the region include Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, East Timor, Christmas Island and Cocos (Keeling) Islands - all located far away from any other continent or ocean. Some are so isolated that they don't even have airports!
Oceania includes two microcontinents, Melanesia and Polynesia, as well as Micronesia - consisting of the islands of New Zealand and western New Guinea. Oceania's other three island regions are Melanesia, Polynesia, and Micronesia.
When it comes to continents, there are various theories on how the world should be divided up. Some believe there are only five continents, while others hold that there are seven; yet others assert there are a total of eight continents.
One common way to divide the world into continents is by hemispheres, with Europe located in the northern hemisphere and Asia located south of it. This division is made possible because most of Earth's land surface lies north of the Equator, and all continents except Antarctica are wedge-shaped.
Geographers had long assumed that continents were large landmasses with clearly delineated boundaries separated by oceans. However, recent studies have demonstrated this is not the case.
NASA recently reported that Earth has been expanding for millions of years. This shift is caused by tectonic plates shifting, shifting continents around.
It is estimated that in a few hundred million years, there may be more continents than there are now due to sea water rising an inch per year.
As such, some have advocated for more than seven continents to be recognized. Some even propose adding an eighth continent called Zealandia as well.
No matter how you divide the world into continents, there are a few essential things to keep in mind. For instance, always travel with travel insurance when visiting remote regions of the globe. This is especially important if you plan on trekking through unfamiliar terrain.