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EATING DEAD THINGS



With a handful of highly specialised exceptions, probably all known 
carnivorous animals will eat carrion. The two most frequented cited 
examples of animals that never touch carrion are (1) cheetahs and (2) 
snakes. In general, I suppose it is true that both don't, as a rule, 
eat carrion - - however, rules are few and far between in biology. I 
understand that cheetahs have on occasion been reported eating stuff 
they hadn't killed themselves (carrion by definition), though I 
haven't seen any references stating such. 

As for snakes, the notion that they don't eat carrion is probably due 
to lack of field observation, as in recent years a large number of 
snakes eating all manner of dead things have been reported. Chris 
Mattison's _Encyclopedia of Snakes_ (if you only ever buy one book on 
snakes, make it this one) summarises all the recent literature on 
this area: cited cases include a snake swallowing a small mammal that 
was long dead and positively crawling with maggots (which reminds one 
of African tribal tales about the 'Crowing cobra' killing prey and 
then feeding on the maggots.. whatever:)) and a Bull snake that 
literally peeled a road-killed toad from the tarmac before swallowing 
it. Yummy.

Of course, it will probably always be true that egg-eating snakes 
(dasypeltins) will not eat stale eggs. Carl Gans provides an amazing 
and invaluable review of egg eating (oviphory??) in _Biomechanics_. 
Incidentally, _Dasypeltis_ does not swallow the embryo if there is 
one in the egg: it ejects it with the eggshell. 

"Hate to see you go, love to watch you leave"

DARREN NAISH
darren.naish@port.ac.uk