In this science blog we investigate the two principal ways in which snakes kill their prey which include poisoning and ‘constricting’. We also confront Homer Simpson’s negative attitude about snakes.
This article follows on from Evolution-from Lizards to Snakes
Springfield’s Whacking Day
Every year on May 11th the citizens of Springfield hold a snake ‘whacking day’ when rattlesnakes are hunted down and killed with sticks.
In preparation for this annual event Homer Simpson practices his whacking skills.
He even buys a shiny new ‘whacking stick’….
…much to the disgust of Lisa who pleads with Homer not to join this barbaric event. Homer does not listen to Lisa’s pleas.
On May 11th the people of Springfield, in a carnival atmosphere, meet up in the Town Square. The people listen to the town choir singing the ‘whacking day’ song.
The Beauty Queen declares the event ‘open’ and invites the people of Springfield to start ‘whacking.’
Banging their ‘whacking sticks’ on saucepan lids, the citizens set off in pursuit of Springfield’s rattle snakes.
Terrified, the snakes slither in the opposite direction and jump over a man sitting on a park bench.
Bart and Lisa Simpson are horrified at the prospect of this needless slaughter. Can they save the snakes? To be continued….!!!
Gaboon vipers wait silently on the forest floor to ambush their prey. The truth is that they are very timid and shy snakes; they do not seek to bite passing mammals that they are not intent on eating.
In fact, they are sometimes killed after being accidentally trodden on by leopards, hippos and elephants ( and even humans!)
Gaboon vipers can wait…wait.. wait…for several weeks before they have the opportunity to bite and inject venom into passing prey; this prey may include birds, rats, rabbits, monkeys, porcupines and small antelope. They can go several weeks without a meal because they have such low metabolism; as they wait to ambush a passing animal they expend very little energy.
Lying camouflaged in wait for prey to ambush is safer than slithering around in search of prey. If they did slither around in search of prey they might be heard and their intended prey could easily escape.
Ambushing as a way of catching prey also means that Gaboon vipers can kill prey than can move faster than they can.
2) Other strategies snakes use to stay alive
The Black Mamba from Southern Africa, one of the fastest of all snakes, uses its lightening speed to escape predators. Black mamba predators include eagles and badgers.
It is one of the most feared, venomous and aggressive of all snakes but it will still try to escape if it hears humans approaching.
The venomous, marine Yellow Lipped Sea krait has developed an ingenious way of not being eaten. When this snake forages for food its head is often hidden inside holes and crevices of coral reefs.
With its head hidden it leaves its long body and tail very exposed; it has no means of defending itself and is vulnerable to attack by sharks and snake eating fish.