How to eat crab without hands?



The snake Opisthotropis spenceri ripping a crab under water (photo: Nirut Chomngam)
How to eat crab without hands?
post by
Charlotte Degueldre

While opening and eating crabs represents a challenge for many people as they do not know how to rightly use the designated utensils, some animals manage to do it without tools and even without hands!

A Thai-Belgian team of biologists, including our colleague the vertebrate animal specialist Olivier Pauwels, recently discovered that the rare freshwater snake Opisthotropis spenceri, which lives in fast-flowing streams in the mountains of northern Thailand, has developed special skills to feed on a locally abundant crab species. The snake explores every nook and cranny of the stream in search of freshly-moulted crabs, whose body is for a short time soft and vulnerable before it hardens again. The snake then coils its body around the defenceless crab, removes and swallows its legs one by one, before opening its body to feed on its entrails. Snakes usually swallow their prey whole, and only a few other cases are known where snakes dismantle their prey before swallowing it.

This observation was published in the Bulletin of the Chicago Herpetological Society.


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