A great snake in the act of swallowing something larger than its head presents a marvel of reptilian engineering.(Animatronic dinosaur costume) The snake manipulates its prey’s body with its mouth, until it faces the prey’s head and the prey’s limbs point away. (dinosaur suit)Then the snake opens its jaws and begins to engulf the monkey. Not hurriedly, not with crude gulping and gnashing of teeth, but deliberately and precisely, the snake draws the monkey’s head and shoulders into its mouth. We humans are limited by our rigid and brittle jaw, whose right and left sides are firmly joined at the chin so that the width of our mouth is fixed. The right and left halves of the serpent’s jaw are joined only by an elastic ligament, so the “chin” can stretch as the monkey’s head is swallowed. Within both right and left lower jaw, the snake possesses a hinge that allows even more expansion. Our human jaws move sideways only slightly where they meet the skull at the jaw joint, just in front of the ears (try moving your jaw from side to side with your finger resting on the jaw joint— you will feel only about Va” of movement). But the right and left halves of the snake’s jaw are hung on the skull by a long, folding strut, divided into two hinged sections like a carpenter’s ruler. As the snake engulfs the monkey’s shoulders, these joints swing outward on their flexible struts, enormously increasing the gullet’s diameter to accommodate the outsized prey.
So far we have witnessed only the passive aspect of the puff adder’s swallowing act—the hinges and elastic joints being pushed out by the prey’s body as it is drawn into the snake’s mouth. But the greater marvel is the way the snake powers its jaws to drag the prey down its throat. (animatronic dinosaur)We think of swallowing as a minor muscular feat. We chew a few dozen times and gulp. Down goes a little masticated food accompanied by minor contractions of our tongue and esophageal apparatus. Our chewing muscles do most of the work; swallowing is not a major event. But since snakes don’t chew, the entire body of the monkey is actively drawn into the snake’s throat by the backward pull of fanged jaw bars, two above and two below. Unlike the soft roof of our mouth, the snake’s palate possesses bars of bones, studded with backwardly curved teeth, on each side.