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Snakes can reproduce in many ways... but all snakes use internal fertilization. As you noted some snakes lay eggs and leave them so they hatch on their own, some retain the eggs within them, and some give birth to live snakes. Those that give birth are really unusual because that kind of reproduction is typically only found in the placental mammals. It's thought that the type of reproduction is based on the environments - so generally eggs outside and live birth occur in cold environments and retention of the eggs inside are found in hotter environments. One snake can reproduce without mating.... check it out here: http://encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_761578341_3/Snake_(reptile).html.