How does a Python eat?
The jaws of a python are not like a human’s jaws. Humans cannot open their mouth very wide, but a python can.
The jaws of a python are extremely flexible because they are not fused together and they are not connected to the back of its mouth.
A python can open its jaws so wide that it can eat a medium-sized animal whole – such as a deer, antelope, pig, cat, or dog.
First, the python constricts, or squeezes, an animal to death or almost to death. The animal is subdued and does not fight, which enables the python to open its mouth wide and swallow it.
The python’s top jaw and bottom jaw move independently. The jaws are connected by a stretchy ligament, lika a rubber band.
Therefore, the python can move its jaws along an animal, like a walking motion, to move it slowly down its throat. This is called a pterygoid walk.
A python also has very sharp backward-facing teeth to help it do the pterygoid walk.
How does the python breathe when its mouth is full? It has a little tube at the bottom of its mouth. When its mouth is full, the tube comes out to get some air.
The python does not chew its food. It swallows it whole. Chemicals in its stomach help it to digest the animal. It takes a long time, and the python does not need to eat again for a week or more.
Location of photographs: Grant Museum of Zoology, London
Photographer: Martina Nicolls
Martina Nicolls: SIMILAR BUT DIFFERENT IN THE ANIMAL KINGDOM