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How Snakes Swallow their Prey

Home > Snakes > Feeding

Although the food types vary from snake to snake, the majority of all snakes eat prey much larger than themselves. This fact seperates snakes from the rest of the animal kingdom. Due to the fact the eat very large meals, snakes do not have to eat very often. They also have a very slow metabolism, digesting their food over the course of anywhere to 12 months (large Pythons). Most snakes eat 7 - 10 meals a year.

Snakes do have teeth, but not in the traditional sense. All their teeth are used for is holding onto, and dragging their prey down their esophagus. Although the teeth have limited use, they are the perfectly adapted for doing this. The teeth are slightly curved into their mouth, small and very sharp. The inward curve prevents prey from backing out. The entire jaw structure is lined with these teeth. The snakes jaws are connected together only by ligaments and muscle, allowing the upper and lower jaw to move independently.

Some prey will be swallowed alive, while dangerous prey is killed before being eaten. You would not think it, but a rat or mouse is dangerous. They are very aggressive and will continue to bite and chew at your snake. This food is killed with a bite, venom or by constriction. The snake will generally turn the prey so it is swallowing it head first. The jaw bones move independantly, slowly drawing the food into its mouth. When the food is past its head, the snake will form a curve in its neck, forcing the animal down into its stomach.

Snake skin is remarkably elastic, allowing it tol stretch enough to allow very large animals to work its way down and be digested. Snakes do not have a sternum (attaching the ribs at the front), or the pectoral girdle (for front limbs). This makes it easy for the body to stretch and eat large food.


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