A video not too long ago posted on Facebook by the Georgia Division of Pure Sources (GDNR) is an effective reminder that Mom Nature can throw a imply curveball. The brief clip, credited to Tom Slagle of Haddock, Georgia, exhibits a kingsnake chowing down on a timber rattler a lot bigger than itself.
“Massive critters eat little critters” is a primary constructing block of meals webs worldwide. Largemouth bass gorge on crappies that gorge on shad. American bullfrogs feast on native frogs whose bellies are crammed filled with tadpoles. Crows hunt European starlings and home sparrows, generally snatching them in mid-air. And massive snakes eat little ones.
But the kingsnake flips the script by not simply consuming, but additionally swallowing entire a creature greater than it. “If the snake being eaten is longer than the kingsnake, it’ll get folded earlier than being swallowed,” writes the GDNR. “It’s a snake-eat-snake world on the market.”
Certainly, a 2004 study of California kingsnakes examined how they will ingest snakes equal or larger to their very own size and located that “the predator snake forces the vertebral column of the prey snake to bend into waves. These waves shorten the prey’s physique axis and permit it to suit contained in the gastrointestinal tract and physique cavity of the predator.” In different phrases, kingsnakes fold bigger snakes up like an accordion.
That’s to not point out that the kingsnake needed to kill the rattler within the first place. Actually, king snakes are identified to be resistant to snake venom—and deadly constrictors. Kingsnakes—which strike and grasp their prey close to the top, coil round and constrict it earlier than swallowing it headfirst—are even able to out-squeezing bigger constrictors, regardless that their muscular tissues are not any extra highly effective than the opposite snake’s. According to a 2017 study, this can be as a result of a kingsnake will fastidiously align its physique round prey like a spring coil somewhat than the extra haphazard constricting strategies utilized by different constrictors. Due to this, kingsnakes produce increased constriction pressures than the constrictors they feed on. It’s a traditional case of working smarter, not tougher.
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“Kingsnakes are lively foragers, and thus must eat extra steadily than different species to maintain their vitality up,” the Georgia DNR wrote in response to a commenter’s query about how lengthy the timber rattlesnake meal ingested on this video will final. “A superb rule of thumb is about as soon as every week when consuming smaller prey objects. The meal within the video, nonetheless, is pretty massive and can take longer to digest. It in all probability has sufficient energy and vitamins to carry the kingsnake over for for much longer [than a week].”