The shedding of scales is called or . In the case of snakes, the complete outer layer of skin is shed in one layer. Snake scales are not discrete but extensions of the epidermis hence they are not shed separately, but are ejected as a complete contiguous outer layer of skin during each moult, akin to a sock being turned inside out.
Identification of snakes by reference to scales seems an arcane art to the amateur naturalist because the nomenclature of snake scales seems esoteric and, more importantly, the snakes need to be caught and the head and body examined closely in hand for identification. The advent of high definition digital cameras means that images taken of snakes, if of appropriate definition and of the correct position, would show scales that can be examined, distinguished and counted without the need for catching and handling.
Another example of differentiation of snake scales is a transparent scale called the brille or spectacle which covers the eye of the snake. The snake has no eyelids and the brille protects the eye. It is shed as part of the old skin during moulting.
Snake scales have inspired dread and awe in humans from pre-historic times. Patterns in art prevalent to those times and later on may be ascribed to the visual influence of snakes, some of which, such as the Gaboon Viper, can both repel and fascinate the human mind. Studies of fear imagery and psychological arousal indicate that snake scales are a vital component of snake imagery. Snake scales also appear to have affected Islamic art in the form of tessallated mosaic patterns which show great similarity to snake-scale patterns.
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