CNN: How pythons can devour enormous prey
Burmese pythons can swallow prey much bigger than their heads, UC study finds
CNN highlighted research by the University of Cincinnati that examined how Burmese pythons swallow prey far bigger than their heads.
UC College of Arts and Sciences professor Bruce Jayne examined the gape of Burmese pythons, which have invaded parts of Florida where they have found a smorgasbord of prey choices.
Jayne and his co-authors found that it’s not just the size of the snake's head and body that puts almost everything on a python’s menu. They evolved super-stretchy skin between their lower jaws that allows them to consume prey up to six times larger than similarly sized snakes.
The study, funded in part by a grant from the National Science Foundation, was published in the journal Integrative Organismal Biology.
“One common misunderstanding is that snakes dislocate their jaws to swallow prey,” Jayne told CNN.
But Jayne said unlike our jaws, those of pythons and other snakes are comprised of two bones separated by stretchy skin.
“The stretchy skin between left and right lower jaws is radically different in pythons. Just over 40 percent of their total gape area on average is from stretchy skin,” Jayne said. “Even after you correct for their large heads, their gape is enormous.”
Featured image at top: Ian Bartoszek, right, science project manager for the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, captures a 215-pound Burmese python in Everglades National Park. Photo/ Conservancy of Southwest Florida