amniota

Though all snakes have the same stripped-down, streamlined form, their hunting and killing techniques vary enormously. Some twine through the vegetation following the scent of birds’ nests, frogs’ eggs, or sleeping lizards. Others probe burrows on the forest floor, lurk next to flowers waiting to ambush hummingbirds, or dangle from branches pretending to be vines. Scent and vision are their most important senses, but pit vipers can also “see” the warmth of prey at night by using heat-seeking pits found on the snout. With no limbs, most snakes rely on their bite to kill. The bite of a coral snake also delivers a nerve agent that paralyzes a victim’s lungs and muscles. Vipers inject their prey with a potent venom that attacks the blood. Constrictors have no need for venom- they kill by asphyxiation, coiling around prey and tightening each time the victim exhales. The green vine snake (Oxybelis fulgidus), pictured above, can separate its jaw bones so that it can swallow prey wider than its own body. Backward-pointing fangs help ratchet the meal deep into the snake’s gullet. 

Text by Thomas Marent; Photo by rajeev