There are many species of snakes that populate our planet and they all have different ways of capturing and seizing prey. Some use venom to subdue their prey, some constrict their prey and others consume prey while it’s still alive without the use of venom or constriction. Despite the fact that snakes subdue their prey in different ways, they all have one thing in common, eating; and at most times, eating prey items that are much larger than the size of their head. How are they able to swallow a prey item whole that’s often times much larger than their heads?
Ball pythons and snakes in general have a very unique jaw structure that differs drastically from the jaw structure in humans. If we were able to swallow items like snakes we would have no problem swallowing a watermelon whole without cutting it up into smaller pieces as we do now. Our upper jaws are fused to our skull so it’s unable to move in and of itself. We use our bottom jaws to open our mouths whereas a snake has a totally different and unique jaw structure than we do.
Human skull. Upper jaw is fixed.
A snakes’ jaw on the other hand is attached to its braincase by a series of interconnected muscles, tendons and ligaments that enables it to move it side-to-side and front-to-back. The quadrate bone connects the upper jaw with the lower jaw and this connection allows snakes to dislocate their bottom jaws and open their mouths to an astonishing 150-degree angle! Unlike us, muscles enabling them to move their mouths from side-to-side also connect the bones on the side of their mouths and each side can move independently of the other! This degree of flexibility is how snakes in general are able to open their mouths wide enough to consume prey.
Snake jaw structure
Once a snake has subdued its prey item by the use of constriction, venom or it’s just plain eating the prey alive, it disconnects its jaws, opens its mouth upwards of 150-degrees and begins to swallow the prey item whole.
Ball python beginning to swallow prey. Photo courtesy of Dread.
Well, they don’t actually swallow the prey item, they drench their mouths with saliva and begin to “walk” their lower jaw over the prey item – one side of the lower jaw pulls the prey item while the other side moves upwards on the other side, grips the prey item with its teeth and pulls the prey. This flip-flop process is continued until the prey item is deep in the snake’s esophagus.
Ball python swallowing pretty. Photo courtesy of Dread.
Once the prey item is deep in the esophagus, the snake will use the muscles in its neck to push the prey item further into the digestive track and crush the prey item where it’s ultimately broken down into nutrients. One interesting thing to note is that snakes have an air hole located on the bottom of their mouth. As they consume their prey, the air hole offers them the ability to breathe while they're swallowing their meal.
Ball python using neck muscles to force prey in further. Photo courtesy of Dread.
Once the prey item has been fully consumed, the snake then has to reconnect its bottom jaw and it does this by displaying a wide yawn gesture. Disconnecting and reconnecting jawbones might seem like a painful process but it’s painless to snakes because their jaws were designed to function in this manner.
Ball python reconnecting its jaws. Photo courtesy of Dread.
Next time you see a snake feeding, just think about trying to swallow a watermelon whole and you’ll probably gain a better appreciation for the complex jaw structure in snakes.
awsome snake u got
large rats but his never bends side ways
sois here something wrong with my penut ?!?1?
You guys are clearly f****s. This page is also a pile of s**t, right down to that corny-as-f**k fake pixilated wood background. I almost navigated away in slight disgust until I realized this page is about reptiles.
Only f****s and b****s give a f**k about snakes. Who gives a f**k about snakes? Get a f*****g life man? My snap judgment of you is a self-taught "mans man" living in a dilapidated shack of s**t, somewhere south of the mason dixon line. Only genetic failures from the south give a s**t about reptiles.
Get a real job, real hobby, make some real money- and then you might not whine like a p***y b***h because maybe, just maybe then you can afford bandwidth.
Bill get a life.
BTW, Awesome Feeding shots!
Actually, I have another one. I held a ball python up to a mirror, and its response was remarkable, and very cat-like. After the initial eye contact was made there was a lot of tasting-smelling, nose to the glass. Then she rose up until she had a good 8 or 9 inches of herself pressed tightly onto the glass, straight up. The next time I showed her the mirror she only briefly eyed herself before crawling behind it. Here's the question: Was she being aggressive when she pressed up against her reflection, maybe a little territorial? And was she looking for the snake behind the mirror?That's sure what it seemed like at the time.
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