The first time I ever heard our Canebrake Rattlesnake shake its tail it sent the hair on the back of my neck stand up. I was behind the scenes working with some other snake when it went off. The other day when I was cleaning exhibits I wondered how exactly its able to make that sound with its tail.
I did a little research and this is what I came up with.
If you have ever looked closely at the end of a rattlesnake tail, you will see that is composed of segments
The segments are hollow and are made out of keratin, the same stuff your finger nails are made of.When they are born, they have no rattles because the rattles develop after a shed. While it is true that after a shed a segment is produced, it will not tell the age of a rattlesnake (old wives tale)because the segments do come off in the day to day life of a snake.When the segments knock together as the snake shakes its tail, they knock together and that is how the sound is produced. It rattles an average of 61 times a second!
Below is a slow motion video of a rattlesnake moving its tail. You will need to click the link inside the box and it will open up in YouTube