CLOSE
Original image
Youtube

The Snake That Ate Itself

Original image
Youtube

The idiom “you are what you eat” takes on a whole new meaning when your own tail is what’s on the menu.

In 2009, Bob Reynolds of Sussex was horrified to discover his pet king snake, Reggie, “chomping down on his back end.” According to the vet who attended to the snake, “I’ve never seen a case like it, although I have heard about it happening.” Fortunately, after 30 minutes of gently freeing Reggie’s teeth, the serpent’s tail was saved before digestion had set in. 

What could’ve driven an animal to devour itself in the first place? In Reggie’s case, this culinary mishap wasn’t too far off from his species’ usual diet. King snakes (Lampropeltis getula) frequently consume smaller snakes (including poisonous rattlers, as you can see in the clip below), so it’s likely that the critter mistook his wriggling hindquarters for a potential prey item.

Reggie may have survived his ordeal, but at least one other specimen didn’t live to tell the “tail.” In The New Encyclopedia of Snakes, herpetologist Joseph C. Mitchell writes:

The most bizarre accounts of snake feeding behavior have to be those of American rat snakes, Pantherophis obsoletus, that have been observed eating themselves! One individual, a captive, did this on two occasions and died at the second attempt. The other individual was wild and was in a tight circle, having swallowed about two thirds of its body, when it was found.

For those interested in seeing more, check out this video (uploaded last January) in which an albino Western Hognose snake (Heterodon nasicus) assumes a “donut” position and ingests a good chunk of her own tail.

Original image
iStock
arrow
Animals
Watch as Hummingbirds Fly, Drink, and Flap Their Tiny Wings in Slow Motion
Original image
iStock

Hummingbirds have more feathers per inch than nearly any other bird, but it’s hard to fully appreciate their luminescent colors when they beat their wings between 70 to 200 times per second.

For the enjoyment of birders everywhere, National Geographic photographer Anand Varma teamed up with bird biologists and used a high-speed, high-resolution camera to capture the tiny creatures in slow motion as they flew through wind tunnels, drank artificial nectar from a glass vessel, and shook water from their magnificent plumage.

[h/t The Kid Should See This]

Original image
iStock
arrow
Big Questions
Why Do Dogs Howl at Sirens?
Original image
iStock

A dog's behavior can often prove confusing to their human colleagues. We know they like to eat their own poop, but puzzle at their motivations. We're surprised when dogs give a ladybug the same greeting as a home intruder.

Topping the list of eccentric canine behavior: Why do dogs howl at sirens? Is there some genetic predisposition to responding to a high-pitched alarm from passing ambulances or police vehicles?

As it turns out, the reason dogs howl at sirens is because of their ancestry—namely, the wolf. When members of a pack are fractured and spread out, their companions will howl to provide a way of locating them. Think of it as nature’s GPS: By howling, dogs are able to communicate their respective locations to one another, even across long distances.

Since dogs really don’t know what a cop car is supposed to sound like, they’ll often interpret a siren as an animal’s howl. It’s also possible that dogs consider sirens to be a sign that something is abnormal in their environment, and that they want you, the pack leader, to be aware of it.

Contrary to belief, a dog is rarely howling because the noise hurts their delicate ears. If that were the case, some experts say, then they would display other behaviors, like running and hiding.

The more a dog hears and responds to a siren, the more they might be compelled to continue the behavior. That’s because dogs who howl and then notice the sound drifting away might begin to associate their vocalizing with the disappearance of the noise. In the future, they’ll probably recall that they “drove” the interloper away with their warbling and repeat the process.

While howling is usually harmless, sometimes it can be a sign that your pet is feeling separation anxiety from an owner or that they’re feeling unwell. If howling persists even without a screaming siren within earshot, you might consider taking them in for a check-up.

If you’ve wondered why dogs howl at sirens, now you know. It’s simply a way of signaling their location and not because it pains them. Owners, on the other hand, might feel differently.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

SECTIONS

More from mental floss studios