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Snakes trick prey for easy meal

Water snakes trick their fish prey into swimming directly into their waiting jaws, according to a linkurl:study published in PNAS;http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2009/06/18/0905183106.abstract last week (June 19). With a subtle body movement, the tentacled snakes trigger a preprogrammed escape response in fish, causing them to flee in a predictable direction so that the snakes know just where to positions their heads for an easy meal. Image: Ryan Somma, Wikimedia commons"It's a very clever ma

Jef Akst
Jef Akst

Jef Akst is managing editor of The Scientist, where she started as an intern in 2009 after receiving a master’s degree from Indiana University in April 2009 studying the mating behavior of seahorses.

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Water snakes trick their fish prey into swimming directly into their waiting jaws, according to a linkurl:study published in PNAS;http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2009/06/18/0905183106.abstract last week (June 19). With a subtle body movement, the tentacled snakes trigger a preprogrammed escape response in fish, causing them to flee in a predictable direction so that the snakes know just where to positions their heads for an easy meal.
Image: Ryan Somma,
Wikimedia commons
"It's a very clever maneuver," said neurobiologist linkurl:Nick Strausfeld;http://neurobio.arizona.edu/faculty/strausfeld.html of the University of Arizona, who didn't participate in the research. "It's really quite a remarkable thing that the snake has evolved this behavior to exploit this escape behavior." Neuroethologist linkurl:Kenneth Catania;https://medschool.mc.vanderbilt.edu/biosci/bio_fac.php?id3=9129 noticed fish repeatedly swimming straight into the mouths of the snakes he kept in his laboratory at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. Using high speed video, he captured this behavior and slowed it down to reveal the snakes' secrets: The animals...




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