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SAN FRANCISCO (October 18, 2005) – Snakes may be among the most feared animals on Earth, but they are also among the most captivating – especially when they’re eating. Now, visitors to Steinhart Aquarium can watch as the residents of SSsssnake Alley swallow their supper every Friday afternoon. During the program, California Academy of Sciences biologist Ned McAllister will discuss the snakes’ eating habits and field questions from visitors while he conducts the feedings.
Most of the snakes on display are fed humanely euthanized rats and mice – a feeding practice that spares the rodents the experience of being hunted and prevents the snakes from being injured by swiping claws. The Gunther’s whipsnakes, however, have an entirely different diet. These fascinating snakes, which are often called vine snakes because of their shape and coloration, were collected by Academy herpetologists during a research expedition to Myanmar . When the scientists first brought the snakes back to the Academy, no one knew what to feed them, since they had never before been displayed in captivity. After experimenting with lizards, worms, insects, and frogs to no avail, Academy biologists finally tried placing a bowl of fish in the tank with the whipsnakes. The next morning, when the fish were gone, the biologists realized that the whipsnakes actually fished for their food. Graceful and stunningly quick, the snakes fish by dangling over the water from a branch, waiting for a fish to pass beneath them, and striking through the water to catch their prey. Visitors can now witness this amazing behavior – along with other fascinating feeding habits – every Friday at 2 pm. Feedings last for approximately 20 minutes.