JAC Warning: This stuff is graphic, so if you are a d*g lover you may not want to watch.
by Greg Mayer
A video of a python disgorging a dog on a street in Bangkok is making the rounds, and has been the subject of an article in the Daily Mail.
The python appears to be a reticulated python (Python reticulatus). The video dramatically illustrates the flexibility and movability of snakes’ jaws. In most reptiles, the lower jaw articulates with the quadrate bone (q in the picture below), a firm part of the upper jaw. In snakes, the quadrate is only loosely attached to the skull, and there are other points of mobility in the skull. In the lower jaw, the anterior tooth bearing bone on each side, the dentary (d in the picture below), does not have a bony suture with its contralateral partner (as you do– feel your chin just below your lower incisors)– but only a soft tissue connection which is quite stretchable, allowing the two sides of the lower jaw to be widely separated.
The dog, of course, is quite dead, having been constricted before being swallowed. Constriction compresses the thoracic cavity, and leads to cessation of blood flow, killing the prey even before suffocation occurs. The saliva coating and compression of the dog’s body help it slide out backwards, instead of having the limbs get “stuck” somewhere in the snake’s alimentary canal.
My guess would be that the snake disgorged the prey because it was being harassed or bothered by people in the street. If it had been in the forest, it would have found a quiet nook in which to digest.
For more on snake feeding, see the refs below.
Ernst, C.H. & G.R. Zug. 2004. Snakes in Question. 2nd ed. Random House, New York.
Greene, H.W. 1997. Snakes: The Evolution of Mystery in Nature. University of California Press, Berkeley.