How Does a Rattlesnake Rattle?
It’s easy to recognize a rattlesnake by the rattle at the end of its tail. The rattle is a series of horny, cup-shaped rings that fit loosely into one another.
A rattlesnake rattle is made of dead tissue and its owner shakes it by twitching sets of small muscles on either side of its tail.
The contraction of special “shaker” muscles in the tail causes these segments to vibrate against one another, making the rattling noise (which is amplified because the segments are hollow).
The muscles that cause the rattle to shake are some of the fastest known, firing 50 times per second on average, sustained for up to three hours.
When a rattlesnake rattles, it’s usually because it has become alarmed. This makes it vibrate its tail rapidly. The hollow rings strike together and make a sharp buzzing sound.
By making its rattling noises, the rattlesnake is able to warn away bigger animals that might step on it or harm it. Although a rattlesnake often gives a warning before it strikes, it may also strike without rattling.