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Friday, 8 July 2011

Behavior

Behavior

Feeding and diet

Snake eating a rodent.
Carpet python constricting and consuming a chicken.
All snakes are strictly carnivorous, eating small animals including lizards, other snakes, small mammals, birds, eggs, fish, snails or insectsBecause snakes cannot bite or tear their food to pieces, they must swallow prey whole. The body size of a snake has a major influence on its eating habits. Smaller snakes eat smaller prey. Juvenile pythons might start out feeding on lizards or mice and graduate to small deer or antelope as an adult, for example.
African egg-eating snake.
The snake's jaw is a complex structure. Contrary to the popular belief that snakes can dislocate their jaws, snakes have a very flexible lower jaw, the two halves of which are not rigidly attached, and numerous other joints in their skull (see snake skull), allowing them to open their mouths wide enough to swallow their prey whole, even if it is larger in diameter than the snake itself,[41] as snakes do not chew. For example, the African egg-eating snake has flexible jaws adapted for eating eggs much larger than the diameter of its head.[9]:81 This snake has no teeth, but does have bony protrusions on the inside edge of its spine, which it uses to break shells when it eats eggs.[9]:81
While the majority of snakes eat a variety of prey animals, there is some specialization by some species. King cobras and the Australian bandy-bandy consume other snakes. Pareas iwesakii and other snail-eating colubrids of subfamily Pareatinae have more teeth on the right side of their mouths than on the left, as the shells of their prey usually spiral clockwise[9]:184[42]
Some snakes have a venomous bite, which they use to kill their prey before eating it Other snakes kill their prey by constriction.[41] Still others swallow their prey whole and alive.[9]:81[41]
After eating, snakes become dormant while the process of digestion takes place.[44] Digestion is an intense activity, especially after consumption of large prey. In species that feed only sporadically, the entire intestine enters a reduced state between meals to conserve energy. The digestive system is then 'up-regulated' to full capacity within 48 hours of prey consumption. Being ectothermic (“cold-blooded”), the surrounding temperature plays a large role in snake digestion. The ideal temperature for snakes to digest is 30 °C (86 °F). So much metabolic energy is involved in a snake's digestion that in the Mexican rattlesnake (Crotalus durissus), surface body temperature increases by as much as 1.2 °C (2.2 °F) during the digestive process.[45] Because of this, a snake disturbed after having eaten recently will often regurgitate its prey to be able to escape the perceived threat. When undisturbed, the digestive process is highly efficient, with the snake's digestive enzymes dissolving and absorbing everything but the prey's hair (or feathers) and claws, which are excreted along with waste.

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