Snakes that eat other snakes are often called “kings;” for example, the King Cobra. The most common, widespread North American snake with this feeding habit is the beautiful common kingsnake, Lampropeltis getula. Readers of this blog know that the kingsnake is my favorite snake.
Like all snakes, kingsnakes have several anatomical features that allow them to eat prey that is actually bigger than their heads. These features include a specialized jaw that allows the mouth to open nearly 180 degrees, very stretchable skin, and lack of a breastbone, which allows the ribs to expand as the meal moves down the gullet. If you had the same adaptations, you would be able to swallow a cantaloupe.
My fellow docent at Tohono Chul Park, Carlton King, was lucky enough to observe a common kingsnake attacking, subduing, and swallowing a fairly big Western diamondback rattlesnake in his neighborhood. With his permission, I am pleased to share these remarkable photos with you.
Thanks again, Carlton!