Snake Jaw: Seriously Cool Facts On Snake's Mouth That Will Amaze You

Abhijeet Modi
Jan 24, 2024 By Abhijeet Modi
Originally Published on Nov 13, 2021
Ball Phyton in the garden.
Age: 3-18
Read time: 7.2 Min

Pythons can move their jaws independently as well as swallow large animals easily.

Have you ever wondered how snakes have these abilities to gulp their food? Can snakes dislocate their jaws from their skull in order to eat large prey?

It is a myth about snakes that says that snakes unhinge, detach or dislocate their jaws from their skull as it is not the truth. According to science experiments, the snake's jaws move independently, but snakes cannot dislocate their jaws as their quadrate bone was never attached and fused together to their head.

The interesting fact about the species of snakes is that this animal does not chew its food while eating, but snakes swallow their meals fully and alive. This is the reason that their digestive process is so important. Meals of the python are digested chemically, which is why it can take a while; otherwise, the python can cough up the rest of the swallowed meal that it cannot digest.

If you like reading about these cool facts on the snake's mouth, we've got more in store for you. Are you curious to know more? Great! Why don't you read about these fun facts of similar animals: snake shedding and snake skin here on Kidadl.

Are snake jaws hinged?

There is a question that makes all of us quite curious, and it is do snakes have a split jaw or a lockjaw? The answer to this question is yes, mandibles of the snake's bones are split at the place where the chin should be. This results in the ligaments allowing the mandibles of the animal mouths to move freely, and thus, the mandibles' bones remain not locked and unfused. Therefore, it is just a myth that their jaws can dislocate from their head while they gape for large prey.

If we look at the jaw of the python, one thing for sure is that its jaw is loosely hinged with its upper jaw. Because of this reason, it can easily gape apart its mandibles. Ribs of snakes are also made in such a way that they seem quite flexible which makes swallowing bigger prey easy. After snakes swallow their prey, prey is digested via snakes' specialized digestive process.

What is the type of jaw a snake has allowing it to consume a large meal?

Basically, the snake's jaws are made up of three bones where the teeth of a snake are situated. The palatal bone, which is the house of the teeth, is made up of palatine, vomer, and pterygoid bone. So both the snake's lower jaw, as well as the upper jaw, consist of teeth, and the upper jaw is made up of only two bones which are the maxilla and premaxilla.

Jaws of these snakes are different than jaws of other animals because their jaw is not connected with some other joint. Instead, snakes' jaws are connected with stretchy ligaments, which are structured in such a way that snakes can easily open their jaws wider than their own body, which results in them being able to go about swallowing large meals very easily.

What two snake jaw adaptations give them the ability to open their mouth so wide?

Snakes' mouths have a unique type of joints, different from those of other mammals. As we know, they don't have chins to support their jaw in one place. This is the reason that their jaws move independently, and snakes swallow large prey quite easily.

Another factor that allows snakes to open their mouth wide to swallow easily is that, unlike other animals with a pivotal joint that allows them to open their mouths, snakes have an additional bone located between the stretching skin of the head and jaw. This enables them to open their mouths much larger than their own body and thus swallow larger animals in one go.

Eastern Garter Snake.

How big can a snake's jaw open?

If by chance a snake cannot digest its prey and cannot cough it up and vomit the undigested part of the prey, that will affect the health of the snake, and soon medical assistance will be needed for the snake. That is why some snakes initially start this whole swallowing process with their venom. These snakes inject their venom before starting to swallow, which makes the process a little easier as their venom dissolves all the nutrition from the prey's body, resulting in making the prey weak. Prey turn into a liquid mass soon after they are swallowed fully, and that makes the digestion process less time-consuming and with more chances that the prey will get digested in a week or so.

As you all know, it is impossible to swallow something down our throats that cannot fit in our jaws, but we see that the lower jaw or mandible of snakes is formed so that they can gape or increase the shape of their jaw to fit their prey in their mouth.

Did you know?

There is a whole process that a snake follows to swallow its prey's body fully. When a snake finds its prey, the snake's body also starts to make remarkable changes according to the size of the prey. Let's say a snake captures its prey, and it is a mouse. The first thing a snake does to swallow it is to locate the prey's head as the prey is eaten head first. Then the whole swallowing process becomes easier for the snake.

When the swallowing process starts, slowly and slowly, as the prey slides down the throat of the snake, the jaw starts to expand according to the size of the prey. Therefore, it expands so much and does not stop until the creature is fully inside the mouth of the snake. When the prey is fully inside the mouth, the next step comes in which its jaws move forward and then to the sides by moving one mandible at a time. This whole process is not the easiest, but it is also not the most difficult one. After this whole process, the next step comes, which is the digestive part, and that is a very crucial one for these snakes. Often, a snake cannot digest the smallest animal, and it becomes very stressful for the owner and the snake itself.

In order to digest a meal completely in the body of a snake, the process can take around 15-20 days at the most. Everybody is already aware that instead of chewing, the snake swallows its meal in one go. After going into the snake's body, some of these animals cannot get digested easily and later cause a problem if not coughed back up.

When the prey is eaten by the snake, inside the snake is where the process to digest it starts taking place chemically. It is said that inside the snake's body, there are more chemicals than in any other mammals, which aid the snake in the process of digestion. These digestive enzymes act on the prey and so that the snake can try to digest it fully. However, if the digestion does not keep up with putrefaction, then the partially digested prey may swell inside the body, posing a threat to the snake.

Apart from snakes, many other animals can move or unhinge their jaws quite independently and can perform the act of swallowing animals larger than their own body. For example, some lizard species are capable of performing these acts despite their small body. Other than these reptiles, there are a majority of sea creatures that prey on large animals. Those creatures are sarcopterygian fishes and actinopterygian fishes.

Another well-known example of this type of animal is the shark. When we were children, we often heard many stories of sharks and how they could swallow any animal head first, including humans. Now, if we look at the facts, we can say that some of these stories are true as sharks are the kind of animals that can easily move their upper jaw and swallow prey whole. They also don't chew their meal like other mammals do.

There are some species of snakes, like pit vipers, that release venom to their victim while swallowing. As a result, the venom starts to dissolve proteins and other nutrition of the prey's body and turn its flesh into a liquid mass that can easily get digested. Thus, the snake's venom makes the digestive process less tricky and time-consuming. Did you enjoy our article? What cool facts about snakes did you learn? 

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our article on snake jaw: ssseriously cool facts on snake's mouth that will amaze you, then take a look at static electricity for kids: basic science fun facts explained or Statue of Liberty original color: and how did it turn green.

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Written by Abhijeet Modi

Master of Computer Science

Abhijeet Modi picture

Abhijeet ModiMaster of Computer Science

An experienced and innovative entrepreneur and creative writer, Abhijeet holds a Bachelor's and Master's degree in Computer Application from Birla Institute of Technology, Jaipur. He co-founded an e-commerce website while developing his skills in content writing, making him an expert in creating blog posts, website content, product descriptions, landing pages, and editing articles. Passionate about pushing his limits, Abhijeet brings both technical expertise and creative flair to his work.

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