When you think of the impressive meals snakes are able to consume whole, you most likely consider massive constrictors devouring deer and similar prey. However, despite their large size (and that of their prey), when you put things into equal perspective, a smaller species of snake reigns victorious in catching the largest prey. In fact, it is Gans’ egg-eater.
The Gans’ egg-eater (Dasypeltis gansi) is a species of snake native to much of the western regions of the African continent. As their name suggests, their diet is made up completely of eggs. In a study published in the Journal of Zoology, Biologist Bruce Jayne describes the interesting eating habits of this little snake. The results? Gans’ egg-eater snake is able to consume the largest prey (when you consider respect to body size).
Undoubtedly, larger species of snake, such as pythons, are able to consume larger prey. For instance, another one of Jayne’s studies found that pythons could consume prey weighing over 100 pounds. However, Burmese pythons can grow to be several feet long and up to around 200 pounds. Gans’ egg-eater only grows to be around three feet long, with a thin frame. As a result, while the prey they capture is much smaller than that of large snake species, it is still the largest with respect to body size.
How Does Gans’ Egg-Eater Eat?
In order to consume prey so large, the Gans’ egg-eater snake has adopted specialized anatomy. This is true for many of the Dasypeltis species, each with a diet heavily featuring eggs.
First, Gans’ egg-eater has very few teeth. This helps increase space in the mouth while also providing fewer obstacles that could damage the egg or prevent smooth consumption. They also have stretchy skin between the left and right lower jawbones, allowing them to swallow larger prey.
What is most interesting about this species of snake, however, may be their vertebrae. Gans’ egg-eaters have specialized vertebrae that, when contorted, can crack the swallowed egg. This allows the snake to digest the innards of the egg while regurgitating the shell.
Species Profile: Gans’ Egg-Eater
Gans’ egg-eater is a non-venomous snake species native to West Africa. Here, they thrive best in savanna habitats. They are named for Carl Gans, an American herpetologist. On average, they grow between 28 and 40 inches in length. While other egg-eating species may consume a variety of eggs, this species eats only that of birds.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © TKBackyard/Shutterstock.com
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