What do snakes eat?

Online Biology Dictionary

What do snakes eat and how do they do it? To get an clear idea, watch this video of a garter snake ingesting a toad.
What do snakes eat
Common Egg Eater
Dasypeltis scabra

What do snakes eat? All snakes eat animals,

that is, they're zoophagous. There are no vegetarian snakes. Snakes are carnivorous reptiles. Large snakes eat large animals. Small ones eat small ones. The smallest snakes eat insects and other invertebrates.

Most snakes eat rodents or birds after either killing them with venom or squeezing them to death in constricting coils. They mostly eat small animals because most snakes aren't that big.

Snake eating toad
What do snakes eat? Garter snake Thamnophis sirtalis ingesting a toad.

snake food
Snake eating chicken (Enlarged view)

tentacled snake
Tentacled Snake
Image: Ryan Somma

But, of course, there are big snakes. The largest snake in the world, the green anaconda, which kills by constricting, can eat animals as large as a human being or a pig.

Many snakes also eat eggs. But eggs, too, are animals, although at an early stage of development. Birds, especially young birds in the nest, are also a target.

Non-constricting, non-venomous snakes generally eat smaller prey such as insects and small rodents that they can easily seize in their mouths and swallow.

There are also snakes that eat other snakes. Well-known examples are the king cobra and the various king snakes (such as the scarlet king snake, which eats rattlesnakes) — king refers to the fact that these snakes dominate and eat other snakes.

The venom of many snakes contains hemotoxins that break down tissues within the victim and therefore aid snakes in digesting what they eat.

Erroneous reports allege that the tentacled snake of southeast Asia (right) eats aquatic plants. While it is in fact the world's only snake with tentacles, it actually eats minnows, not plants. The widespread, mistaken idea that it's the only vegetarian snake stems from an old, incorrect report. In fact, among all snake adaptations, the tentacled snake's methods of predation are among the most highly developed and unusual known (see Catania 2009).

How much do snakes eat? A snake of any given weight eats far less than does a mammal of the same size because snakes are cold-blooded. A mammal must eat more in order to generate enough energy to maintain its body temperature. A snake only uses about 10 percent of the amount of energy used by a mammal of similar size. So they only need about a tenth as much food. Snakes do drink water — but, again, much less than a mammal of equivalent size.

More articles:

What giraffes eat >>

Zebra habitat >>

Where lions live >>

One of the most unusual snake adaptations, and one of the most impressive among reptile adaptations as a whole, is the ability to swallow large animals intact, often ones that are much bigger around than the snake itself (snakes don't chew). Snakes can do this because they can unhinge their jaws to permit the passage of large objects. Digesting a meal of this sort can take a snake weeks, or even months. Once digestion is complete, the snake vomits any bones or other indigestible parts that can't be passed through its system. Not an appetizing sight.

dog-cow hybrid A dog-cow hybrid?

Next page >>

The largest snake known >>

Animal News >>

Online Biology Dictionary >>

More about snakes >>

Video of a snake eating an egg:

Video of a milksnake eating a cornsnake:

Video of a cottonmouth eating a rattlesnake:

Python kills and swallows Sambar Deer in Sri Lanka:

What do snakes eat? © Macroevolution.net

Most shared on Macroevolution.net:

Human Origins: Are we hybrids?

On the Origins of New Forms of Life

Mammalian Hybrids

Cat-rabbit Hybrids: Fact or fiction?

Famous Biologists

Dog-cow Hybrids

Georges Cuvier: A Biography

Prothero: A Rebuttal

Branches of Biology

Dog-fox Hybrids