Never give up, even if you’ve been eaten

A paper just published in Herpetology Notes journal describes a very unusual observation – a blindsnake was eaten by a toad and passed through ALIVE!

‘Fantastic Voyage’: a live blindsnake (Ramphotyphlops braminus) journeys through the gastrointestinal system of a toad (Duttaphrynus melanostictus) [PDF]

Here is the abstract.

We report an unusual predator-prey interaction between the Common Asian toad, Duttaphrynus melanostictus, and the Brahminy blindsnake, Ramphotyphlops braminus, as observed in Manufahi District, Timor-Leste. The live blindsnake was found emerging headfirst from the cloaca of the toad, with about one-third of its body length still inside. This interaction may indicate that indiscriminate foraging by invasive toads could endanger small vertebrate prey, while it appears that the physiology and habits of blindsnakes may allow them on occasion to elude predation in an unexpected manner.

Yep, you can avoid dying by NOT being digested. That is weird. This was published in Herpetology Notes, Volume 6: 467-470 (201)

This was observed in Timor. Both species are non natives to the island. When the toad was spotted in this situation, it struggled for a bit after which it completely expelled the blindsnake. They do not know if the lizard had a role to play in the emergence from the body or the toad just wanted it out. The snake was injured but alive. Sadly, it was found dead the next day after a fantastic journey NONE of us would like to endure. The authors suggest that some may be more lucky than this one. Was the toad a careless consumer of this prey item? Or has the snake evolved a nifty survival maneuver? The other questions this raises is if perhaps the toad thought it was a worm. They do not normally consume vertebrate prey. It also suggests an alternative explanation for blindsnakes found in owls’ nests. Perhaps the snakes were not brought there as prey but emerged alive from the digestive tract. Far fetched but now we have this new and impressive view of the durability of blindsnakes! Fascinating!

The toad and the snake that escaped its fate

The toad and the snake that escaped its fate

Tip: Darren Naish @TetZoo on Twitter

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  5 comments for “Never give up, even if you’ve been eaten

  1. October 19, 2013 at 7:17 PM

    And that is why I told my kids to always chew their food before swallowing.

  2. neko
    October 19, 2013 at 7:34 PM

    I think this escape plan passes muster.

  3. Chris Howard
    October 19, 2013 at 11:59 PM

    I’m pretty sure that I’d rather die. ;-)

  4. Mancat
    October 20, 2013 at 3:13 AM

    A third possibility for the blind snakes in owl nests was proffered about 25 years ago:
    http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/4218201?uid=3739920&uid=2&uid=4&uid=3739256&sid=21102788309067

    They suggested that the owls killed all the prey they brought back to the nest except for the blind snakes, which would eat the insects living in the nest, reducing the mortality of the nestlings. The authors suggested that the owls did this on purpose.

  5. Brian
    October 20, 2013 at 9:18 AM

    The toad was exhausted from the ordeal, but the snake was just a little pooped out. :D

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