Contrary to popular notion, snakes donâ€™t sting or use their forked tongues as weapons. The tongues are actually harmless, even though the sight of a snake sticking out its tongue may seem scary.
A snake sticks out its tongue to collect information for its Jacobsonâ€™s Organ, an organ strategically located in front of the roof of the snakeâ€™s mouth that functions as a chemical receptor. Each time the snake flicks out its forked tongue, it snares chemical particles in the air, which latch onto or dissolve in the moisture of the snakeâ€™s tongue. Once the animal reels in its tongue, it inserts the tips of the forked tongue into the two awaiting openings of the Jacobsonâ€™s Organ where the particles â€” especially those that have to do with animal body odours â€” are identified, analysed and acted upon.
For the male snake, the tongue is also a sensual organ. It plays a vital role in snake courtship and reproduction, as the male snakeâ€™s jerking body motions and rapidly flicking tongue either charm the female snake or render her unresponsive. Either way, by sticking out their tongues, snakes ensure the survival of the species.
Sources: The Telegraph (Kolkata, India)