It was really gruesome encounter when a group of scientific researchers saw a strange feeding behavior whereby a snake was slicing through the skin of it’s prey and devouring its organs one after the other while the prey was alive then leaving the rest of the corpse untouched.
If you wonder what that is, it’s none other than the Asian Kukri snakes in Thailand which posses some special feature such as its knifelike teeth right at its upper jaws with which it can easily slash through and then disembowel its preys, plunging their heads into the abdominal cavities and then feasting on their organs.
That must be the weirdest thing you’ll ever imagine animals doing to one another but one good news is that the Kukri snakes are harmless to humans as amateur herpetologist and naturalist Henrik Bringsøe has it in a new study where they describe the gruesome feeding technique in a statement.
Normally, what we know is that all snakes do is to constrict and then swallow their preys no matter how large but what is strange is for a snake to bury its head into its prey’s body and slurp up its entire organ one by one which would usually take it hours to do so according to Bringsøe and his colleagues on their research.
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In their research, the victims of this deadly act were poisonous toads which are called Duttaphrynus Melanostictus commonly known as the Asian black-spotted toads or Asian common toads which are stout with thick-skins. They measure about 2 to 3 inch in length.
According to the study, the toads would usually have a serious battle with the snakes as well as releasing toxic white substances on their skins as act of defense while the snakes’ grisly evisceration strategy are said to be linked to the animal trying to avoid the toad’s poisonous secretion while feeding on their doomed preys.
Kukri snakes in the Oligodon genus are so named because their slashing teeth resemble the kukri, a forward-curving machete from Nepal. While kukri snakes aren’t a threat to people, their teeth can cause painful lacerations that bleed heavily, because the snakes secrete an anticoagulant from specialized oral glands, according to the study.
“This secretion, produced by two glands, called Duvernoy’s glands and located behind the eyes of the snakes, are likely beneficial while the snakes spend hours extracting toad organs,” Bringsøe explained.
According to the research, there were three observations in the Kukri snakes (Oligodon fasciolatus). They usually measure up to 45 inch long and they consume the Asian common toads. The first incident which was first caught happened in 2016 where the sights of the dead toads were found, “but the soil around the two animals was bloody, indicating there had been a fight which eventually killed the toad,” the scientists wrote.
The snake sawed through the toad’s body by swinging its head from side to side; it then slowly inserted its head into the wound “and subsequently it pulled out organs like liver, heart, lung and part of the gastrointestinal tract.”
Then the second encounter caught was more of a serious battle between a Kukri snake and a toad back in April and this lasted for about 3 hours. The encounter documented that the snake would attack then withdraw and then attack again but would usually deter due to the toad’s poisonous defense.
Then when the snake is able to subdue the toad, it’s then able to extract and swallow its organs while the prey is still alive and breathing according to the study.
On June 5, 2020, a kukri snake took a different approach and didn’t disembowel the toad at all, instead devouring it whole. But in a fourth observation this year on June 19, the snake eviscerated its toad prey, slicing into the abdomen to reach its organ meal.
There have been different hypothesis about the different feeding approaches. good example is that young toads are usually less poisonous compared to the adults which could have been the reason for the June 5th encounter to be much faster or that the Kukri snakes are just immune to the toad species’ toxins, but they disembowel adults anyway because the toads are simply too big for them to swallow, the researchers reported.
However, there’s not yet enough data to answer these questions, Bringsøe said in the statement.
“We will continue to observe and report on these fascinating snakes in the hope that we will uncover further interesting aspects of their biology,” he said.
The findings were published online Sept. 11 in the journal Herpetozoa. Originally published on Live Science.