One of the most curious snake species on this planet is the cat-eyed water snake, a menacing creature with a preference for soft crabs, which tears its prey into pieces while alive.
This extremely fussy species will only devour the right kind of crabs if they are freshly milked. After the bite has shed its exoskeleton, the snake jumps and peels off various body parts while still alive until it has been swallowed whole, piece by piece.
Unlike larger snakes, where it can take hours to swallow their dinner, the cat-eyed water snake (Gerarda prevostiana) squeezes the moving crab down in just a few minutes. These meandering snakes live in brackish or salt water throughout Southeast Asia and, thanks to an extendable jaw, can defeat crustaceans four times their size.
“As with most snakes, the skin in the chin region and neck can stretch straight to accommodate large prey,” Bruce Jayne, Professor of Biology at the University of Cincinnati, told Tekk.tv. “The bones of her lower jaw are long and slender, which also helps to create a large circular opening. However, they have a very unusual behavior that allows them to overcome these anatomical limits of prey size”.
Like a top chef who selects the finest meat, these snakes do not attack their prey until they are just ripe for picking, about 10 to 15 minutes after the animals have skinned their shells.
“The Halloween-like surprise is the ho humming appearance and yet wild behavior of the snake,” says Jayne.
Jayne has studied these predators in the field and in the laboratory in Singapore to study their behavior. She has a “highly unsnake-like behavior,” the professor claims, who found out just by working his finger along the body and forcing them to regurgitate what they ate after being caught in the field.
“We were able to conduct a study on the snake’s diet without having to kill the snakes. When we did that, I’ll be damned, we found that they were eating crabs,” he said.
Jayne took some of the reptiles to his lab and tried every trick he could think of to get them to eat crabs, but to no avail. It wasn’t until he tried to feed them a crab that had just shed its skin that a snake finally took the bait. In his fascinating infrared video, the snake attacks an extremely large crab – a crab that is at least four times as large as the head of the snake.
The snake attacks the creature in a single vicious movement, grabbing the crab’s leg and pulling it away from the body almost instantly while holding the crab in place with the rest of its curled body. The crab fights, but the battle is lost – the snake works its way around the animal and tears off several limbs before it sits down on the rest of the body for the final bite.
“Just as you can’t judge a book by its cover, you would never suspect that this little snake with its so banal appearance was such a wild and accomplished predator,” says Jayne.