Small-banded kukri snakes, named after the curved Kukri knives used by Nepalese Gurkha soldiers, apparently use their sharp teeth to slice into certain victims and then proceed to eat them from the inside.
Scientists already knew that kukri snakes used their curved teeth to tear into eggs, but a recent study revealed that they sometimes used their knife-shaped fangs to slice the abdomens of poisonous toads, before sticking their heads in side them and feeding on their intestines. According to the research published in the Herpetezoa online journal, the victims are basically eaten alive from the inside, which the authors themselves found to be a macabre feeding strategy.
“Toads don’t have the same feelings and can’t sense pain in the same way as we can, said Henrik Bringsøe, an amateur herpetologist who co-authored the recent study. “But still, it must be the most horrible way of dying.”
Kukri snakes were named after the traditional curved knives used by Gurkha soldiers, because of their large teeth, which they use to create lacerations that may cause “profuse, long-lasting bleeding”, instead of the usual puncture wounds caused by most snakes.
Scientists witnessed the disturbing feeding strategy of kukri snakes first-hand, and presented several photos and videos of the reptiles with their heads buried deep in the abdomens of various toxin-secreting toads. The main theory is that the snakes developed this gruesome strategy to avoid the toads’ potentially lethal toxins, but researchers believe it may also work on prey that is too large to swallow whole.
The main theory devised by researchers is supported by the fact that kukri snakes only fed on the internal organs of the toads, leaving their empty carcasses behind. The reptiles are also known to consume most of their prey whole, like most snakes do, saving this laceration technique for poisonous targets.
Describing some of the cases they witnessed, researchers reported fights between kukri snakes and toxic toads that lasted several hours and ended when “the snakes inserted their heads into the abdomen of the toads, pulled out some of the organs and swallowed them”.
This previously “unknown feeding mode” has reportedly both fascinated and horrified the scientific community.