This very rare little snake choked on a huge millipede

This very rare little snake choked on a huge millipede

This very rare little snake choked on a huge millipede

It’s called having eyes bigger than your stomach.

At Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, a wildlife park located in Florida, a walker stumbled upon a strange scene; he surprised a small snake devouring a giant millipede … or rather what was left of it. Because the poor animal, unable to completely swallow its prey, found itself stuck in this uncomfortable position until it suffocated.

The snake measured just twenty centimeters. But that didn’t stop him from attacking an arthropod that was certainly juvenile, but also particularly plump. After all, these reptiles are known for their ability to swallow much larger prey than themselves. But some foods are even more difficult to pass than others, and the hero of this story has learned the hard way.

A real autopsy

The researchers subjected the remains to an X-ray scanner in an attempt to identify the specific cause of death. For example, they suggested that the large claws available to this millipede species may have caused damage to internal organs. But the latter had only a few small, barely significant internal bleeding.

© Enge et al.

These claws are also poisonous, and specialists have speculated that the snake may have been poisoned. But these millipedes are part of the menu of a large number of snakes; most of them have therefore developed resistance to this poison. They then quickly ruled out this very unlikely lead.

They then decided in favor of another more plausible explanation; his windpipe would simply be crushed by this bulky prey. They would die of asphyxiation after somehow trying to swallow the last third that still passed his mouth.

In blue / purple, the snake’s windpipe compressed by its prey. In red, a bite mark left by the victim. © Enge et al.

According to Coleman Sheehy, one of the managers of the local museum’s collection, this is a far from normal scene. “It is extremely rare to find dead specimens while eating prey“, he says. However, it is not this element that fascinates researchers the most. What interests them even more is the identity of this little snake.

Because while it doesn’t seem like much, it’s actually a specimen of Tantilla ooliticaan extremely rare species.

© Drew Martin

An extremely rare and mysterious species

Alone 25 of these snakes have been identified since they were discovered and the last sighting of this little beast was in 2018. Since that date, no one had observed one.

This is not necessarily a surprising situation, since they are very discreet animals. Specialists believe that they spend most of their time in crevices and under rocks in the steep pine forests in which it resides. They would therefore be difficult to observe even if they were present in abundance.

© Drew Martin

But it also happens that these famous pine forests have been going pretty bad for many years. This ecological niche is shrinking at a significant rate, which is of great concern to local naturalists. “Their habitat was completely devastated”Explains Sheehy.

Some of his colleagues thought that this dynamic could lead to the complete disappearance of Tantilla oolitica; after all, it had already been on a list of endangered species since 1975.

Fortunately, these doubts were removed with the discovery of this fascinating specimen; it is now one of the finest exhibits in the Florida State Museum. “I was blown away when I first saw the photos,” says Sheehy. “Since it is a very rare specimen, I never imagined finding something like this. I’m amazed, “she admits.

This discovery therefore puts some balm in the hearts of the researchers; this shows that these snakes have not completely disappeared. This is also interesting information about their diet as until now no one had any idea what Tantilla oolitica was eating. With any luck, this discovery will allow specialists to discover other elements that would allow them to save this mysterious species.

The text of the study is available © Drew Martin.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.