Letter | Published:

Snake Cannibalism


HAVE read with interest the numerous accounts of snake cannibalism which have lately appeared in NATURE. During my residence in South Afiica, I have come across several instances of a similar nature. A few weeks ago I received a large roughals (Sepedon haelig;machate) which had swallowed another one of the same kind and of nearly its own length. As the swallowed individual was too long to disappear completely before the front portion of its body was digested, its tail was sticking out of the mouth of the swallower by about six inches. I have dissected two yellow cobras (Naja haji), each of which had swallowed a puff adder(Vipera arielans) more than three feet long. This case is very interesting, as the puff adder has much larger fangs thin the yellow cobra, and in a fight the latter would probably succumb. To mention only one more case, I received, some years ago, the skins of a cross-marked schaapsticker (Psamnwphis crucifer) and a spotted schaapsticker (Psammophylax rhotnbeatus), the former of which had swallowed the latter. In all cases which have come under my personal observation the swallowed snakes had entered head first, and thus probably they were simply drawn in after having caught hold of the same prey as the swallowers. In conclusion, I may mention that cases similar to the above are frequently described in the South African newspapers.

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