West of the Fields

A tropical ecologist reporting from the field. Musings on life and art, botfly extractions, tropical plant identification, beer, parrots, machetes. Etc.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Herpetology 201: Snakes Eating Things

Well, quite some time ago I promised a few photos of snakes eating things. I have a pair very nice snake predation events on film now. I had been hoping for a third, to complete my trifecta, but predation events of any sort are rare to witness, and I decided it's time to post these anyway. The first episode took place back in July. It's a tree boa, probably Corallus hortalanus, wolfing down some small unfortunate brown bird. (Even the ornithologists present couldn't be sure what species it was; by the time the boa was discovered, the bird was pretty mangled).

The other photos are even more interesting: a terciopelo (Bothrops asper), one of the most common pit vipers here, eating a lizard (Ameiva festiva). Franklin and I were coming back from the field in late September when we spotted a lizard behaving strangely. Generally Ameivas run so fast you can barely see them, skittering about the edges of sunflecks on the forest floor and catching any insects they can find. But this one was lying on its side, barely twitching. We stopped to watch it, and in a moment my eyes distinguished the snake right beside it, waiting for the venom to take effect. Franklin kept an eye on it while I ran back to the office for my camera.

We sat and watched until nearly dark, oblivious to the clouds of mosquitoes that began to orbit our sweaty heads. The snake waited until the lizard no longer twitched when she (Franklin knew it was a female; I forget how) nudged it with her head. Then she swallowed it, head-first.
Both the snake and the lizard were relatively small. From the sidewalk, it was hard to see them at all against the backdrop of dead leaves.


At 6:55 PM, Blogger Susan said...

Update, a year and a half later: Harry Greene at Cornell says this is actually Corallus annulatus, a snake for which we have very few natural history observations on record. Very cool!

At 2:54 PM, Blogger mfb said...

Outstanding set of photos and observations!

I've been fortunate to see a few snake predation events in the wild, including a Kingsnake
and a ribbon snake.

I have been putting together a flickr group to compile natural history observations like yours. Please consider adding your shots.

Snakes eating in nature

Thanks! Mike


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