Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Unique Feeding Behavior Discovered For Snakes; Field Museum Scientists Describe "Loop And Pull" In Nature

Date:
July 11, 2002
Source:
Field Museum
Summary:
Snakes are known to swallow their prey whole, which limits the size of what they can eat. But now scientists have discovered that a species of snake can tear apart its prey. This snake loops its body around a crab to hold one end while using its mouth to pull off legs or rip the crab's body into pieces.

CHICAGO –- Snakes are known to swallow their prey whole, which limits the size of what they can eat. But now scientists have discovered that a species of snake can tear apart its prey. This snake loops its body around a crab to hold one end while using its mouth to pull off legs or rip the crab's body into pieces. This "loop and pull" method allows a snake to eat crabs that are relatively huge – far too large to swallow whole. Even more astounding, this appears to be solely based on a unique behavior rather than newly derived physical traits.

The research will be published in Nature June 11, 2002.

"This rather ordinary looking snake is breaking all the rules," says Harold Voris, co-author and curator of amphibians and reptiles at The Field Museum. "Gerarda prevostiana is the only snake to tear oversized prey apart, yet you could not have predicted this on the basis of its morphology [form and structure]. It appears to have accomplished this feat solely through a unique behavior, not morphological adaptation."

In fact, the novel behavior has overcome the limitations that limb loss and body form changes imposed on snakes early in their evolution, Voris says. "These results serve notice that behavioral changes alone may allow for major and exceptional changes in life style."

The snakes and crabs were collected in a mangrove forest of Singapore. The unique feeding behavior was recorded at night in a dark room with infrared video cameras. In 85% of the trials, the snake used "loop and pull."

The scientists captured two G. prevostiana that had consumed pieces of crabs much larger than any used in the lab trials. This verified that the feeding behavior was not limited to the lab.

A sister species, Fordonia leucobalia, was also found to pull apart oversized prey, but it has hypertrophied cranial musculature and short, blunt teeth that facilitate this behavior.

Although the two snake species consume the same species of crabs, they share this food source by specializing on different stages. G. prevostiana specializes in soft, newly molted crabs while F. leucobalia eats the crabs after their shells get hard. Another snake in the same mangroves eat only snapping shrimp while a fourth eats only fish.

"These findings represent an interesting example of evolutionary divergence of behavior between closely related species," Voris says. "This is only one of many examples of how the tropics are uniquely suited for gaining insights into evolution, diversity and specialization."

The other authors are Bruce Jayne, University of Cincinnati, and Peter Ng, National University of Singapore.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Field Museum. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Field Museum. "Unique Feeding Behavior Discovered For Snakes; Field Museum Scientists Describe "Loop And Pull" In Nature." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 July 2002. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/07/020711075601.htm>.
Field Museum. (2002, July 11). Unique Feeding Behavior Discovered For Snakes; Field Museum Scientists Describe "Loop And Pull" In Nature. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/07/020711075601.htm
Field Museum. "Unique Feeding Behavior Discovered For Snakes; Field Museum Scientists Describe "Loop And Pull" In Nature." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/07/020711075601.htm (accessed September 23, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Ice Age Wooly Mammoth Remains for Sale

Raw: Ice Age Wooly Mammoth Remains for Sale

AP (Sep. 23, 2014) A rare, well-preserved skeleton of a woolly mammoth is going on sale at Summers Place Auctions hope the 11.5-foot tall, almost intact specimen will fetch between $245,000 to $409,000. (Sept. 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Fox Bites Conn. Student And School Staffers In Rare Attack

Fox Bites Conn. Student And School Staffers In Rare Attack

Newsy (Sep. 23, 2014) A fox attacked a second-grade boy at a Connecticut elementary school Monday. It also attacked two school staff members and a woman and her dog. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Will Living Glue Be A Thing?

Will Living Glue Be A Thing?

Newsy (Sep. 23, 2014) Using proteins derived from mussels, engineers at MIT have made a supersticky underwater adhesive. They're now looking to make "living glue." Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Tiger Kills Man at India Zoo

Raw: Tiger Kills Man at India Zoo

AP (Sep. 23, 2014) A white tiger killed a young man who climbed over a fence at the New Delhi zoo and jumped into the animal's enclosure on Tuesday, a spokesman said. (Sept. 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins