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 crabs 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
Risk of infection with COVID-19 from singing: First results of aerosol study with the Bavarian Radio Chorus
03.07.2020 | Klinikum der Universität München
Age research: A low level of the stress hormone cortisol contributes to the ageing process
01.07.2020 | Universität des Saarlandes
Kiel physics team observed extremely fast electronic changes in real time in a special material class
In physics, they are currently the subject of intensive research; in electronics, they could enable completely new functions. So-called topological materials...
Solar cells based on perovskite compounds could soon make electricity generation from sunlight even more efficient and cheaper. The laboratory efficiency of these perovskite solar cells already exceeds that of the well-known silicon solar cells. An international team led by Stefan Weber from the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) in Mainz has found microscopic structures in perovskite crystals that can guide the charge transport in the solar cell. Clever alignment of these "electron highways" could make perovskite solar cells even more powerful.
Solar cells convert sunlight into electricity. During this process, the electrons of the material inside the cell absorb the energy of the light....
Empa researchers have succeeded in applying aerogels to microelectronics: Aerogels based on cellulose nanofibers can effectively shield electromagnetic radiation over a wide frequency range – and they are unrivalled in terms of weight.
Electric motors and electronic devices generate electromagnetic fields that sometimes have to be shielded in order not to affect neighboring electronic...
A promising operating mode for the plasma of a future power plant has been developed at the ASDEX Upgrade fusion device at Max Planck Institute for Plasma...
Live event – July 1, 2020 - 11:00 to 11:45 (CET)
"Automation in Aerospace Industry @ Fraunhofer IFAM"
The Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Advanced Materials IFAM l Stade is presenting its forward-looking R&D portfolio for the first time at...
07.07.2020 | Event News
02.07.2020 | Event News
19.05.2020 | Event News
08.07.2020 | Materials Sciences
08.07.2020 | Health and Medicine
08.07.2020 | Physics and Astronomy