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Tell Me--What Do Snakes Eat when They are Eating?

Updated on September 29, 2012

Snakes Uncovered

The creepy reputation of this reptile comes partly from the fact that most snakes feed on live prey. This results in more than a maintenance problem for the amateur collector of exotic animals,but it is helpful to know that these animals can get used to eating dead prey (both fresh and frozen).

Snakes, thanks to the mobility of their jaws, which are not welded, can consume whole food and swallow without chewing.

However, the problem with snakes is the inability to tear the food they eat into smaller,more bite-sized, bits, unlike many lizards and turtles. This means that larger snakes eat larger prey, which can get tricky if you want to keep one as a pet, but conversely, the smaller snakes have a diet of smaller prey, so take your pick!

Garter snake opening it's unhinged jaws
Garter snake opening it's unhinged jaws


Carnivors are the Name Given to Snakes

All snakes are carnivorous. They can feed on fish , amphibians, small lizards, mammals, small birds and even small arthropods such as insects and spiders, depending sometimes on the age and size of the snake.

However, there are some species of snakes with specialized diets, such as snakes that feed on insects such as Opheodrys aestivus, or egg-eaters like the Coronella girondica. 

Nature is infinitely variable and so are it's creatures.  There  are snakes with specialized diets based on eggs, as the African egg-eating snake (Dasypeltis scabra) the southern smooth snake (Coronella girondica),and those that feed on insects, such as green snake (Opheodrys aestivus) or on other snakes such as king cobra (Ophiophagus hannah).

Water snakes, like the European grass snakes (Natrix natrix) and viper (Natrix maura) like to feed on frogs and toads and fish.

There are even snakes who base their diet on snails (Sibon annulata) the 'snail-sucker' in Central America. This snake has hardened lower jaw and front teeth and in fact, do not eat the shell, but only consume the soft inner meat of the shell once out of its protection with the help of teeth and strong jaw.

eastern worm snake
eastern worm snake

Sea Snakes Diet

Sea snakes also have very specific diets. It is no surprise that sea snakes of the genus Emydocephalus feed only on fish eggs. For example, the sea serpent-headed Emydocephalus annulatus feed on eggs of demersal fish such as gobies or Pomacentrids.

Other sea snakes, however, have a slightly more varied menu as Hidrophis spiralis or yellow sea snake, sea snake Hidrophis lapemoides or Persian Gulf, Hydrophis fasciatus or spotted sea snake, etc.)..

These snakes feed especially crustaceans (and fish), such as crabs and shrimp, they draw from their shelters thanks to its very narrow head and slim body that enables it to enter through the holes and crevices where hide their prey.

However, many sea snakes eat mainly fish. The broad-tailed sea snake of the species Laticauda semifasciata preys on a large number of fish-- mostly acanthurids and Pomacentrids. The young of this species feed mainly on the fish Parapercis.

Rodent Eaters

Although snakes have highly specialized menus, the largest number of snakes feed on rodents.

In this list are various snakes, such as rat snakes (Elaphe spp) as an example of exotic animals or snakes indigenous to the Iberian Peninsula, as the scalaris Elaphe or ladder snake and Aesculapius snake (Elaphe longissima). Other  snakes that also consume a large number of rodents are  the snub-nosed viper (Vipera latasti) and asp (Vipera aspis) as an example of Iberian vipers. The pit vipers or rattlesnakes, as the diamond rattlesnake (Crotalus adamanteus), the forest rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus) and the atrocious rattlesnake (Crotalus Atrox)  enjoy rodent feed.

Snakes Eat--Gallery of serpentes eating

Click thumbnail to view full-size
lion chewing up snake (snakes make food for other animals!)snake eating snake!swallowing successouroboros (snake eating it's OWN tail)
lion chewing up snake (snakes make food for other animals!)
lion chewing up snake (snakes make food for other animals!)
snake eating snake!
snake eating snake!
swallowing success
swallowing success
ouroboros (snake eating it's OWN tail)
ouroboros (snake eating it's OWN tail)


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    • Buzzbee profile image

      Buzzbee 7 years ago from The County of the Winkies in Oz

      Maria: I will check out your Hubs! thanks.

    • Maria Cecilia profile image

      Maria Cecilia 7 years ago from Philippines

      very informative....I talked about basic python care in my hubs and there are still a lot that I need to know...