Snakes have always been regarded as carnivores and not herbivorous.
They in fact feed exclusively on small animals and have no other diet besides swallowing eggs, birds, squirrels, boars, chicken and of course their favorite food rodents.
Constrictor snakes like boa or python and even anaconda have no toxic venom and they kill their prey by constriction only. Unlike other reptiles like crocodiles that sometimes feed on fruits and marine iguana that love eating algae, snakes are perhaps one of the few creatures that are solely carnivores.
In some cases, there are some carnivores that may change their food and eat vegetables, however, snakes are not wavering on their habits and would remain hungry if their prey is not available. In fact, a snake can never be omnivorous as their whole body structure goes against it.
So it is no surprise that over millions of years currently there are around 3400 species of snakes in the world and these tetrapods have never evolved into anything but animals of some sort.
Have there ever been Snakes that Eat Plants?
It has been widely disputed by many who have little idea about the anatomy of the snake to challenge the concept that snakes are always carnivores and would remain so forever. This aberration to facts has been made in light of some snake species having been found to have vegetables in their intestinal tube.
It is generally seen that herbivores have to process the plants they eat. When leaves find their way after some chewing it is generally passed into the guts of the animal. By itself, such a process is not sufficient for the easy breakdown of food.
This problem is solved with the help of enzymes found in the gut. The enzymes found in gut happen not by chance, but through a process of socializing among other of their kin. The microbes that process the enzymes are introduced through close touches with the same species and through poop.
Hence, a great deal of acknowledgment needs to be made for groups of herbivores in their social mixing environment. These result in a generous flow of microbes from one animal to another.
In sharp contrast, snakes do not socialize and are solitary animals. Hence, they do not have such microbes in their gut to break down plants. This makes them remain quintessentially a carnivore. In other words, the snake gut system does not support herbivorous behavior.
Now a certain group of studies has revealed that snakes may eat plant as in some instances plants have been found inside the snake’s gut. This actually baffled some experts and further studies revealed how it took place.
It is seen that snake swallow their preys whole and if a rodent has been eating some vegetable when the snake made its appearance then it would remain transfixed in terror without dropping the plant in its mouth.
Snakes may mistakenly eat a plant if they found them to be quite like their prey. For instance, a snake may swallow a plant if the same is having a smell like that of fish. It may erroneously think that the same smell means that the vegetable may be taken without much ado.
Snakes eat any creatures that are smaller in size to their body sizes. Most snakes easily manage to swallow even larger preys than their mouthful. This is because they are able to unhinge their jaws so that large prey can be devoured with ease.
Swallowing is a lengthy procedure and takes some time. Once the food is swallowed the center portion of the food bulges out. It is at this time that snakes are also the most vulnerable.
Since snakes do not bite and chew their food they require a lot of time for digestion to take place. Usually, it is seen that a snake that had fed itself would remain so in that position for around 10 or 15 days. Some snakes may take even longer for food to digest if the prey is a wild boar or a small deer.
Pythons or boa or even the worlds largest snake the anaconda do this pretty neatly. You will find the jaws becoming unhinged when they swallow their prey and soon after the food is passed off through the mouth this again becomes hinged. An anaconda after having consumed a capybara may go without meals for weeks.
Then there are certain snakes that are cannibalistic and that means they eat snakes that are of the same species. The most notorious of the cannibalistic snakes is the King Cobra that has eaten its own whether the same is an adult or hatchlings.
It is quite dangerous for a King Cobra to come across another’s nest. The moment it does especially when it has remained hungry for a week or so, the chances of devouring the new hatchlings are quite a possibility. Again, the larger of the adult King Cobra may chance upon an easy meal if he or she finds the smaller one easy to overcome. This way they check the proliferation of their species.
When the snakes find something not quite right after it has swallowed it may regurgitate the bones and the hairs and other indigestible portions. This too is a slow process and snakes usually take their own time doing it.
Snakes and Taste Buds
Snakes use its tongue and its taste buds have to be looked into a different perspective altogether. Unlike mammals including human, they do not use their tongue for making sound or for tasting a variety of dishes. Snakes at best use their tongue for simply collecting chemicals from air or ground.
They do this by repeatedly flicking in and out their forked tongue. It is through this process that snakes identify their potential prey. By itself, the snake tongue can neither taste nor smell.
Although the snake tongue can neither taste nor smell as they do not have any taste buds a snakes tongue assist in collecting chemicals from the air and the ground and convert into an electrical signal. This electrical signal is then sent into the brain by way of receptors. The conversion actually takes place not on the tongue but in the Jacobson’s Organ.
Although the whole process looks complicated it is rather nature’s way of providing sensory perception to different animals and for the snakes, this is a lot different than that found in mammals. Yet the snakes are formidable hunters of their prey and lie silent to pounce upon one.
Since snakes slither and some crawl it is really easy for them to get to their prey with relative ease and that too noiselessly. Some snakes belonging to the desert swim through the sand sideways that make them avoid the scorching heat and keep their body cool. They have adapted to harsh conditions.
In the deep forest, the snake is an excellent climber and some like pythons perform this despite their body weight. Although not all snakes are good swimmers there are those that have adapted well enough in the water. These snakes like the anaconda can lie in wait of their kill deep inside rivers and only to surface when the prey wanders into the water for a drink.
Snakes as Pets
It is nowadays become a fashion with people to use snakes as pets. Of course, the venomous ones do need proper enclosures without which the snakes can become a threat to human life. The majority of people, therefore, domesticate or rather think that they do with non-venomous snakes. These snakes like corn snakes, rat snakes or pythons are found in abundance in homes everywhere.
However, snakes, unlike other pets, are a danger to human beings. They may look docile but keep them away from children for they may be tempted to give too loving a squeeze. This is especially so with the case with python.