CT Scan Reveals a Rare Snake Inside a Snake

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A snake inside a snake: the cobra Naja samarensis has eaten the rare terrestrial snake Cyclocorus nuchalis nuchalis. (Photo: RBINS, Jonathan Brecko)
13/03/2020
CT Scan Reveals a Rare Snake Inside a Snake
post by
Reinout Verbeke

You know the Russian matryoshka dolls? Well, while CT-scanning a Samar cobra snake from our collections, we found another snake inside: a rare species of about the same size! 

You don’t have to undertake expeditions to discover new things. While micro-CT-scanning a Naja samarensis from the RBINS collections, our biologist Jonathan Brecko saw not one, but two snakes appear on his screen! The highly venomous Samar cobra from the Philippines, about 35 cm long, had eaten another snake of about the same size before it was collected in 1998.

Brecko and Olivier Pauwels, conservator of our recent vertebrates collections, decided to dissect this Naja samarensis specimen and found in its stomach an adult female Cyclocorus nuchalis nuchalis, whose head and nape had been digested. Cyclocorus nuchalis nuchalis is a poorly known forest-dwelling terrestrial snake, also endemic to the Philippines (with a distribution limited to Basilan and western Mindanao islands).

Until now, we knew the diet spectrum of Naja samarensis was made of amphibians, reptiles and rodents. We can now add the rare snake Cyclocorus nuchalis nuchalis to the list. The story of the snake within the snake is published in Bulletin of the Chicago Herpetological Society.

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