Update: A snake with real bite

One characteristic of snakes is that they are supposed to swallow their meals whole. But scientists have discovered one species of serpent that manages to take bites out of its unfortunate prey. The particular snake, which lives in Singapore, feeds on soft-bellied crabs by tearing them apart one bite at a time. Usually snakes open their dislocated jaws wide enough to swallow whatever they can fit inside their mouths.

One characteristic of snakes is that they are supposed to swallow their meals whole. But scientists have discovered one species of serpent that manages to take bites out of its unfortunate prey. The particular snake, which lives in Singapore, feeds on soft-bellied crabs by tearing them apart one bite at a time. Usually snakes open their dislocated jaws wide enough to swallow whatever they can fit inside their mouths.

Bruce Jayne of the University of Cincinnati, Harold Vordis of the Field Museum of Natural History and Peter Ng of the National University of Singapore, found that this particular species of crab-eating snake, Gerarda prevostiana (pictured), used a different tactic. The snake itself forms a loop around its prey, holding it tightly while it tears off limbs and anything else that comes loose.

"The snake literally rips the crab's body apart. They'll tug and pull on it to tear it apart," said Jayne.

The ability to take bite-sized chunks off crabs is unusual given that the teeth of snakes are not designed for slicing or cutting. Instead, they curve back into the mouth, which is a better design for holding prey tightly so they don't escape. The advantage to the snake that manages to overcome this dental limitation is that it can eat bigger prey and grow bigger as a result. The research findings are published in this week's issue of Nature magazine.

¿ West Africa has seen its fishing stocks collapse by 80 per in recent years and this once-rich source of marine life is almost as depleted as the fishing grounds of the North Atlantic. Some experts are predicting that the coast off West Africa will become like the Grand Banks off Newfoundland, which a decade or so ago had the richest cod fishing in the world, but is now practically dead.

According to New Scientist, the depletion coincides with a deal struck with the European Union, which is allowing European fishing vessels to take more fish than ever before off the coast of Angola, with similar deals in the pipeline for Senegal and Mauritania.

"Fisheries in West Africa will go the way of the Grand Banks if something doesn't change," Daniel Paulty of the University of British Columbia told the magazine. Paulty has constructed computer models showing how many fish there are off West Africa. The decline of fishing mirrors similar models showing what happened to cod stocks in the North Atlantic.

Meanwhile, a study by David Conover of the State University of New York in Stony Brook has shown that contrary to popular belief it is the big fish that should be returned to the sea rather than the smaller ones if fish stocks are to be best conserved. Conover carried out research where he raised populations of Atlantic silverside fish in laboratory tanks and removed either the largest 90 per cent of fish in each generation or the smallest.

According to New Scientist, within four generations of taking larger fish, individual adults averaged 1.05 grams compared with 6.47 grams if the tiddlers were taken. The total biomass of the fish also dropped if the bigger ones were taken, while it went up if only smaller ones were taken.

Conover believes that current policies of taking larger fish and throwing the smaller ones back is giving rise to a selection pressure for slower-growing fish. "That's bad news for fishery managers who throw back small fish to allow them to grow to maturity in the hope that it will keep fish populations at sustainable levels," the magazine says.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
news
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
New Articles
tvChristmas special reviewed
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
art
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Sport
sport
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all