Sunday Sketch: A whole snake? Piece of cake!

Snakes can eat a wide variety of animals due to their many feeding adaptations that allow them to consume animals that are bulkier and larger than what would seem possible at first glance. Snakes often eat other animals with elongated body plans such as other snakes, eels, and lizards. Still, they certainly can’t eat anything longer than themselves, could they? Well, the California Kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula californiae) is apparently only motivated by your naysaying and disbelief. Research on the predation of corn snakes (Pantherophis guttatus) by these Kingsnakes showed that they can eat prey up to 139% longer than their body length! What’s more impressive is that they are eating animals that are not only longer than their gut but 139% longer than their total body length. Kingsnakes accommodate this larger meal item by compressing their prey into an oscillating Sine wave formation of sorts, which snakes are adapted to handle as eating animals that are wider than they are is much more common.

Sketch contributed by Amelia Munson. Fact contributed by Adrian Perez.

Source: Jackson, K., Kley, N.J. and Brainerd, E.L., 2004. How snakes eat snakes: the biomechanical challenges of ophiophagy for the California kingsnake, Lampropeltis getula californiae (Serpentes: Colubridae). Zoology107(3), pp.191-200.

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