Snake Eats Pig

Large Burmese python eats a pig.

Video taken on April 4, 2008 of a Burmese python (Python molurus bivittatus) swallowing a feeder pig.

Read below for detailed physiological explanations of the feeding mechanism seen in video.

Let us know if you have any questions.

Super-sized meals such as this pig do not intimidate snakes. Unlike a mammalian jaw which is built for chewing (or bite force) a snake’s jaws are connected with tendons, ligaments, and hinge joints that gives the snake’s skull a gymnast’s flexibility.

Jaws of snakes do not dislocate. One of the enduring myths of snake feeding mechanisms is that the jaws detach. They stay connected all the time. However, as seen in the video, the two lower jaws move independently of one another.

Also, a snake’s lower jaw is not joined at the front as mammal jaws are, but by an elastic ligament that allows the two halves to spread apart (connected by an elastic ligament) at the front. Each lower jaw moves independently.

Quadrate bones at the back of snake’s skulls (at attachment points to lower jaws) are not rigidly attached. They pivot allowing vertical and horizontal rotation; this allows ingestion of large prey such as this pig.

Lastly, a pterygoid bone(or plate) in the roof of a snake’s mouth has an “inner row” of teeth. This plate with the attached teeth move separately from the jaws to help “walk” their teeth over food and down the throat.

Close up video shows the “transport cycle” also called a pterygoid walk: the python opens its jaw and alternately ratchets its upper jaw(two rows of teeth) over the surface of the meal, in turn “walking” its mouth over and around the food object.

This video focuses on the science of snake feeding behavior to support a master’s thesis.

Filmed with the University of Guadalajara for Biological and Agricultural Sciences, the division of Biological and Environmental Science Division, at the department of Botany and Zoology.

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