The snake eats the insides of the toad alive.
Photo by Winai Suthanthangjai.
Biologists have discovered that snakes have a very unusual and slightly creepy way of feeding. The predators opened the abdomen of the victim and slowly ate the insides of the desperately resisting animal.
Details are set out in a scientific article published in the journal Herpetozoa.
Almost all snakes swallow their prey whole. There are exceptions (for example, some of these reptiles can bite off a crab's leg), but they are extremely rare. However, now zoologists have observed behavior in the snake of the species Oligodon fasciolatus, which does not fit into the usual framework.
The species O. fasciolatus is widespread in Southeast Asia, for example, in Thailand and Vietnam. These creatures are not poisonous, but their bite is quite unpleasant. The teeth of these cute creatures do not pierce, but, as it were, cut the victim's tissue. In addition, they secrete a substance into the wound that prevents blood from clotting. The result is a deep cut that can bleed for hours.
It seems that now scientists have figured out why O. fasciolatus is such a "weapon". They watched these snakes eat toads of the species Duttaphrynus melanostictus. The researchers' cameras captured the spectacle not for the faint of heart.
With its teeth, like knives, the predator opened the abdomen of the victim. After that, he pulled out her internal organs one by one and ate them. At the same time, the toad desperately resisted and tried in vain to free itself. Zoologists observed three such contractions, and the longest of them lasted several hours. When the unfortunate amphibian calmed down, the aggressor calmly ate her entrails ... and left the gutted prey.
The predator and his already deceased victim. In the foreground, the toad's liver is torn out, but not swallowed.
Photo by Winai Suthanthangjai.
It is known that some snakes, including those of the genus Oligodon, are able to open the eggs of animals and eat their contents. In addition, there were cases when a snake sucked a termite, discarding an empty chitinous shell. But never before has a predator been observed to do something similar with an adult vertebrate.
Why do representatives of O. fasciolatus need such a sadistic way of eating? There are at least two possible reasons why they do not swallow D. melanostictus toads whole.
Firstly, these are rather large amphibians. It is possible that the snake is simply unable to swallow an adult. And secondly, these toads have glands near their ears that produce strong poison. It seems that the bloody and incredibly painful for the victim "ritual" of the predator allows him to eat the toad and not get poisoned.
However, the authors observed one case when a representative of O. fasciolatus treated a toad of the species D. melanostictus as a self-respecting snake. That is, not to torture her, but swallowed it whole. True, it was not an adult amphibian, but a cub.
The snake swallows a baby toad whole.
Photo by Kanjana Nimnuam.
This is an argument in favor of the hypothesis that size is critical in this case. Perhaps predators swallow "toads" without any problems. But adult toads, unfortunately, do not fit in the mouth of a snake.
However, it is possible that the matter is still in the toxin (if we assume that the venom of young D. melanostictus individuals is not as strong as that of mature ones).