What’s Really Inside A Rattlesnake’s Rattle?


It’s a sound you dread hearing while out for a hike on a secluded trail — a rattlesnake. Aside from being known for their diamond-shaped heads, rattlesnakes have a distinctive rattle that warns intruders to stay far away. When vibrated, this highly evolved warning system creates a hissing sound.

But have you ever wondered what’s inside a rattlesnake’s rattle?

Aside from risking your neck by searching the woods for one of these creatures, most of us don’t have a real opportunity to closely inspect the snake’s unique and somewhat mind-boggling rattle. Fortunately for us curious folk, the people at What’s Inside? have given us the chance to see how the snake’s defense mechanism really works.

The curious father and son duo of Daniel and Lincoln Markham obtained a rattle from a snake in Texas with the intentions of finding out what’s really inside. They used a simple box cutter to carefully cut the rattle in two, which was much more of a challenge than they expected.

Surprisingly, the rattle is actually mostly hollow inside. The shell itself is made of keratin, the same fibrous protein that makes up our fingernails. When the keratin moves against itself, it makes the distinctive rattling noise that sends shivers up our spines.