When it comes to prey size does matter—at least to snakes. New research shows that some snakes use visual cues such as the width of an animal to help assess whether the creature is worth swallowing whole.
In the study which was published in the journal Ecology researchers looked at how three different types of snakes—the eastern brown snake the western brown snake and the tiger snake—selected their meals. ( Brown snakes and tiger snakes are common in Australia; the eastern brown snake is found in Australia New Guinea and parts of Indonesia.)
First the scientists offered the snakes a series of live meals including rodents lizards and birds. The researchers then watched to see if the snakes would strike at and ultimately eat their prey.
Not all of the snakes struck at all of the prey items; lizards for example were largely ignored by the brown snakes. But when the snakes did strike they were more likely to go for prey that was wider than it was long.
The width of the animal also influenced how the snakes struck at their prey. When going for wider targets the snakes tended to aim for the middle of the body rather than the head or tail.
The findings suggest that snakes use visual cues to assess the size of their prey and decide whether or not it’s worth eating. “This is the first study to show that snakes take into account the width of their prey when making feeding decisions” says study co-author Damien Elias a herpetologist at Macquarie University in Sydney Australia.
The findings could help explain why some snakes such as the eastern brown snake are more likely to prey on mammals than other types of reptiles. “Mammals are on average much wider than reptiles” Elias says. “So if snakes are using width as a cue to assess prey size this could help them to identify mammals as potential meals.”
The study also has implications for the way that snakes are evolving. “As prey items get larger or smaller this will have an effect on the way that snakes strike at their prey” Elias says. “So if prey items are getting larger we would expect snakes to evolve longer fangs and more powerful muscles.”
In the meantime the findings could help to explain why some snakes seem to be more prone to attacking people than others. “If snakes are using width as a cue to assess prey size then they may be more likely to mistake a human for ameal if the person is wearing bulky clothing” Elias says. “So it’s possible that in some cases humans may inadvertently be ‘mimicking’ the size of potential prey items.”
How do snakes size up their prey?
By looking at the size of the prey’s body in comparison to their own.
How does the size of the prey effect a snake’s hunting method?
If the prey is too large the snake will not be able to constrict and kill it.
It will either have to wait for the prey to die of exhaustion or let the prey go.
What is the largest prey a snake can eat?
The largest prey a snake can eat is one that is small enough to be swallowed whole.
What is the smallest prey a snake can eat?
The smallest prey a snake can eat is one that is small enough to be swallowed whole.
How do snakes swallow their prey?
By first biting the prey and then unhinging their jaw to widen their mouth.
They then use their body to push the prey down their throat.
How does the size of the prey effect how a snake digest its prey?
If the prey is too large the snake will not be able to digest it properly and it will die.
What is the longest snake in the world?
The longest snake in the world is the reticulated python which can grow up to 30 feet long.
What is the heaviest snake in the world?
The heaviest snake in the world is the green anaconda which can weigh up to 550 pounds.
What is the fastest snake in the world?
The fastest snake in the world is the black mamba which can travel up to 12 miles per hour.
How do snakes protect themselves from predators?
By camouflaging themselves or by blends in with their surroundings.
Some snakes will also play dead if they feel threatened.
What are the main predators of snakes?
The main predators of snakes are birds of prey mammals and other snakes.
How do snakes avoid becoming prey?
By being camouflaged by being quick and agile and by being able to defend themselves.
What is the diet of a snake?
The diet of a snake consists mainly of rodents birds and other small animals.
What is the lifespan of a snake?
The lifespan of a snake can range from a few years to over 20 years.
Do all snakes venomous?
No not all snakes are venomous.