Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Unique feeding behavior discovered for snakes

11.07.2002


Field Museum scientists describe "loop and pull" in Nature

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.

Greg Borzo | EurekAlert

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Amputees can learn to control a robotic arm with their minds
28.11.2017 | University of Chicago Medical Center

nachricht The importance of biodiversity in forests could increase due to climate change
17.11.2017 | Deutsches Zentrum für integrative Biodiversitätsforschung (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.

Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...

Im Focus: Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

Detailed calculations show water cloaks are feasible with today's technology

Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...

Im Focus: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

Im Focus: Successful Mechanical Testing of Nanowires

With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong

Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Plasmonic biosensors enable development of new easy-to-use health tests

14.12.2017 | Health and Medicine

New type of smart windows use liquid to switch from clear to reflective

14.12.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

BigH1 -- The key histone for male fertility

14.12.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>