Have you ever wondered how snakes poop? Where and when do they poop? Isn’t it an interesting question? As the snakes do not have a bottom exit, it is indeed a curious process. It is true that the number 2 (or in other words, defecating) is a necessary part of our routine. Indeed, if humans or animals do not poop properly as they should, it might be a dangerous sign and could potentially mean that there is a health problem on the horizon. In the following article, let’s explore the mystery of a snake’s digestive system.
Do snakes have any organs?
Believe it or not, snakes only have one organ to do all the following activities: laying eggs, mating, and excreting solid or liquid waste. This organ is known as the cloaca, which means ‘sewer’ in Latin. As you may already know, all living creatures have to poop, but each species require a different amount of time for excreting solid/liquid waste. To give you an idea, the average human goes for number 1 or number 2 at least 3 times a week. Some people even go to the bathroom to do their thing 3 times a day!
Some researchers suggest that snakes spend less time than the majority of other living creatures on our Earth. That’s right, a snake’s bowel movement normally concludes only once a year! Consequently, it does make sense, since the snake doesn’t consume as often as humans and other animals do. Additionally, snakes eat larger pieces than other animals due to their extremely efficient digestive system, which brings us to our next topic.
How does the digestive system of a snake work?
For more than a million years, snakes have developed their digestive system in order to survive. Actually, snake poop looks very similar to our poop and that of mammals. However, a big difference with mammals is that they don’t chew their food. As they do not have strong teeth, they swallow the whole thing before entering a long digestive process. Moreover, a snake can flexibly move its jaw if the prey is too big, so pretty much anything can go through. How amazing (and scary)!
Furthermore, snakes have an esophagus (muscle tube) and a trachea (windpipe) just like humans do. Thanks to these, snakes are able to eat and breathe independently. The similarities don’t stop there, our reptilian friends also use acid in their intestines to absorb all the nutrients out of their digested food, and they even experience muscular contractions before excreting. These contractions help to move the digested food along the way and out of the cloaca, which is based at the beginning of their tail. In the end, the main difference between snakes and humans is the duration of food remaining inside their stomach, which stays there sometimes up to 1 full year.
Can snakes store energy to survive during and after a meal?
Snakes normally hunt preys that are bigger than their mouth. As described above, snakes are able to dislocate their jaw. Therefore, it can swallow much bigger food than us, poor humans. An amazing thing about snakes is that in one meal, they can swallow something that’s 3 to 4 times their body mass. After its gobbling, the digesting process begins and can take a very, very long time.
Moreover, snakes have also evolved through time and their digestive organ can grow exponentially, and return to its normal size after digestion is complete. That is the reason why snakes can store plenty of energy to survive for long periods of time even if they can’t catch prey for weeks.
Why snakes do not poop often?
Snakes do not often eat because they store the energy from their food and cannot always catch their prey as explained above. They eat only a few times a year. When they find prey, swallow and digest it, they will finally end up pooping, which takes a lot of time between digestion and excretion. The duration of that process depends on their species. The bigger they are, the longer they will take. For example, rat-snakes will take around two days, whereas bush vipers will take between 3 and 7 days.
The huge snakes like pythons or boas can keep the remains of their prey inside their body for months, and sometimes up to a year. Some scientists claim that it is an unconscious psychological mechanism while other scientists believe that the gained weight at the back of the body makes them have a better counterweight, which provides them more speed to attack their next prey.
Another possibility is that they keep their waste to camouflage themselves while waiting for the perfect strike, what a technique! And that’s that! Now you can explain to a kid who randomly asked you; how do snakes poop?