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Snakes gut toads and feast on the organs of the living animal one by one

It’s a pity that frogs encountering Asian kukri snakes in Thailand. These snakes use knife-like widened teeth in their upper jaws to cut and gut the toad’s prey, dipping its head into the abdominal cavities and feasting on the organs one at a time while the toads are still alive, leaving the rest of the corpse intact.

As you’re recovering from the horror of that phrase, “perhaps you’d be happy to know that kukri snakes are, thankfully, harmless to humans,” amateur herpetologist and naturalist Henrik Bringsøe, lead author of a new study describing the macabre technique, he said in a statement.

This macabre culinary habit was previously unknown snakes; while some tear pieces from their prey, most snakes swallow their meals whole. Scientists had never seen a snake bury its head inside an animal̵

7;s body to swallow organs, sometimes taking hours to do so, Bringsøe and colleagues reported.

Related: Bestial parties: amazing photos of animals and their prey

The victims of this horrible sip of organs were called poisonous toads Duttaphrynus melanostictus, also known as Asian common toad or Asiatic black spotted toad; they are sturdy and thick-skinned, measuring 2 to 3 inches (57 to 85 millimeters) in length, according to Animal diversity web (ADW), a wildlife database maintained by the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology. During the deadly battle, the toads fought “vigorously” for their lives, with some defensively secreting a toxic white substance, according to the study. The grisly snake evisceration strategy could be a way to avoid the toad’s venomous secretions while still enjoying a tasty meal, the researchers wrote.

Kukri snakes in Oligodon they are so named because their sharp teeth resemble the kukri, a machete that curves forward from Nepal. Although kukri snakes aren’t a threat to people, their teeth can cause painful lacerations that bleed heavily, because the snakes secrete an anticoagulant from specialized oral glands, according to the study.

“This secretion, produced by two glands, called Duvernoy glands and located behind the snakes’ eyes, is likely beneficial as snakes spend hours extracting toad organs,” Bringsøe explained.

Macabre meal

The researchers described three observations in Thailand of kukri snakes (Oligodon fasciolatus), which can measure up to 45 inches (115 centimeters) in length, consuming common Asian toads. In the first incident, which occurred in 2016, the toad was already dead when witnesses discovered the scene, “but the ground around the two animals was bloodied, indicating that there had been a fight that eventually killed the toad,” they said. written scientists. The snake sawed up the body of the toad by swinging its head from side to side; then he slowly inserted his head into the wound “and subsequently extracted organs such as the liver, heart, lung and part of the gastrointestinal tract.”

In a second event, an epic battle between a kukri snake and a toad on April 22, 2020 lasted nearly three hours; the snake attacked, retreated, and attacked again, only temporarily discouraged by the toad’s poisoned defense. After finally subduing the toad, the snake extracted and swallowed organs while the toad was still breathing, according to the study.

On June 5, 2020, a kukri snake took a different approach and didn’t gut the toad at all, instead ate it whole. But in a fourth observation this year, on June 19, the snake gutted its toad prey, slashing its abdomen to reach its organ meal.

A toad’s liver lobes are visible after a small-banded kukri snake cuts through the left side of the toad’s abdomen, under the left front leg. The photo was taken in Loei, Thailand, in August 2016. (Image credit: Winai Suthanthangjai)

Young toads produce potentially less venom than adults, which may have allowed the snake in the June 5 observation to safely swallow it whole; Another possibility is that kukri snakes are immune to toads’ species toxins, but still gut adults because toads are simply too large to swallow, the researchers reported.

However, there is still not enough data to answer these questions, Bringsøe said in the statement.

“We will continue to observe and report on these fascinating snakes in hopes of discovering more interesting aspects of their biology,” he said.

The findings were published online on September 11 in the journal Herpetozoa.

Originally published in Live Science.

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