Wildlife photographer Frank De Beer was fortunate enough to capture a rare and astonishing sight: a snake consuming an egg that was larger than its head.
The incident occurred in the savannahs of sub-Saharan Africa, where Frank, a 27-year-old field guide, was enjoying a hot cup of coffee by a water hole with a group of visitors.
“We were sitting next to a water hole, enjoying a hot cup of coffee, and admiring the views,” he explained, according to Outsider. “As we were busy packing up, I heard a pair of very unhappy Blacksmith lapwings. They were mobbing something on the ground. I immediately thought, ‘Snake!’”
He and his companions rushed over to investigate the frantic calls of Blacksmith Lapwings and saw a snake slithering towards the lapwings’ nest with the intent to steal an egg.
“The egg eater soon reached the nest, and we held our breath as it began biting at one of the lapwings’ eggs,” Frank said.
Despite the lapwings’ best efforts to fend off the snake by pecking at it, the snake was too quick and agile and succeeded in snatching one of the massive speckled eggs and slithering away with its prize.
Frank managed to capture some really good footage of the moment on video, which showed the snake struggling to slither away while pushing the egg down its throat.
Even with the egg being three times the size of the snake’s head, the reptile was still able to swallow it, causing a ballooning deformation of its body.
Wildlife experts say that the ability that snakes have to consume prey that is larger than their heads is due to the structure of their jaws. Unlike humans and other animals, snakes have stretchy ligaments in their two lower jaws that allow them to move each jaw independently of the other.
The snake uses its highly flexible jaws and neck to open its mouth wide enough to pull the egg inside. Then, it crushes the shell using bony protrusions on the inside edge of its spine, since it has no teeth. After consuming the contents of the egg, the snake regurgitates the crushed eggshell and leaves it behind.