Snakes have amazing adaptions that enable them to eat their prey whole. Here is a very simplified but still complex description of the adaptions of their skulls that allow this. A snake’s skull is highly modified to allow its jaws to move unilaterally (the right and left sides can move independently of each other). Its braincase is heavily ossified and acts as a pivot point for muscles to pull on the upper jaw as prey is consumed. Most snakes have an additional bone, the supratemporal bone, that is flexible allowing the bottom jaw to be expanded increasing the gape (open mouth size) of the snake. In addition, the front of its lower jaw is not fused and each mandible is hinged further increasing its gape. Simply AMAZING!
Check out these before and after photos of a cornsnake eating a cotton rat in Florida. We found this snake in the wild and were able to watch it eat! Feeding a snake is part of every Snake Talk we give and is always a crowd favorite.
Conservation Through Education