The Big Gulp

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Swallowing prey is not a problem for the Burmese python, one of the largest snakes in the world.

Measuring about 18 feet in length and weighing up to 200 pounds, the pythons are able to gulp down large creatures, including sizable white-tailed deer and alligators.

But scientists recently found that the reptile has no problem stretching its jaws to gobble up even much larger prey, Live Science reported.

In their study, researchers took a number of euthanized Burmese pythons from the Florida Everglades, where the slithering animals are considered to be an invasive species.

They then used a series of 3-D-printed plastic probes of different sizes to measure how wide each snake could open its mouth. The largest probe was nine inches in diameter and only one snake was able to stretch its jaws wide enough to accommodate the giant item.

“The probe is big enough to fit over my head,” said lead author Bruce Jayne.

Jayne and his team explained that the secret to a big gulp lies in the snake’s gape – how wide it can open its mouth. They added that snakes have an elastic piece of connective tissue that stretches from the creature’s braincase to its lower jaw, thus enabling the animal to consume large grub.

Even so, Jayne noted that these adaptable jaws are not common in other snake species – including brown tree snakes, which are nearly the same length as Burmese pythons but smaller in size.

Moreover, he said that the pythons might be picky eaters and won’t always go for large prey just because they can easily gulp them up.

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