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RE: Sauropod-eating snakes

Forgetting the Stout pic for a moment, it should be noted that a non-venemous 
terrestrial serpentine predator doesn't necessarily have to resort to 
constriction in order to bring down comparatively large, active prey. Aussie 
Burton's snake-lizards (Lialis burtonis - a pygopod gekkotan) can tackle pretty 
big lizards, altering their strike precision according to prey size. While 
small prey are ravenously wolfed-down alive,  they quickly incapacitate large 
prey by biting the head or neck, delaying swallowing until the prey item is 
subdued. (Wall & Shine 2007, Biol. J. Linn. Soc 91(4) 719-727.

Probably wouldn't be an overly mean feat for a large madstoid to incapacitate a 
small sauropod in a similar manner thanks to their rather puny heads. 
Swallowing it however would probably be a tad more difficult...

Hmm...have to admit that Burton's snake-lizard has among the most highly 
developed cranial kinesis among living non-snake squamates. It evolved in a 
different manner than the prokinetic snake skull however - they retain the 
amphikinetic skull of their gecko ancestors, shifting the basipterygoid procs 
and palatal arches to increase gape.


From: Mike Habib [habib@jhmi.edu]
Sent: Thursday, 4 March 2010 7:03 AM
To: tijawi@yahoo.com
Cc: dinosaur@usc.edu; Choo, Brian
Subject: Re: Sauropod-eating snakes

Great questions - I suppose one point worth noting is that "narrow
gape" is somewhat relative.  While madtsoiids were relatively narrow
gaped, they did still have relatively kinetic skulls by most
standards.  No macrostomatan style swallowing going on, but animals
like varanids and gekkonids swallow pretty darn big stuff when
opportunity allows.  I suppose what we really need here is a
mechanical analysis of the actual maximum gape in Sanajeh - should be
a plausible thing to do (perhaps already done?)


Michael Habib
Assistant Professor of Biology
Chatham University
Woodland Road, Pittsburgh PA  15232
Buhl Hall, Room 226A
(443) 280-0181

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