Can Snakes Be Cannibals?

Snakes are very elusive creatures. Capturing any kind of data about them is difficult. Their feeding habits are especially hard to track, as they do not feed that often. Their venom being so deadly does not help either. So it comes as no surprise that scientists only recently found out that cobras often turn to cannibalism in order to feed.

A recent study conducted on cape cobras and boomslang yielded some interesting results. The scientists noticed that these snakes often enter huge nests of social weavers in order to eat the little chicks as well as the eggs. During the study, scientists tried to find suitable specimens to implant them with radio transmitters for easier tracking.


During a routine search, the scientists were contacted by a local tour guide that claimed he witnessed two yellow snakes engaged in a fight. As they rushed to the site in order to find what they thought are two cape cobras fighting, what they stumbled upon surprised them even more. As they came to the scene, the larger cobra was consuming the smaller one.

Instead of finding two animals for the study, they found one that exhibited behavior that was considered uncommon until then. The number of time scientists found cobras feeding in the wild is minuscule. Finding cobras that are partaking in cannibalism is even rarer.

Scientists have found evidence, while dissecting these snakes, that they feed on smaller members of their kind, but they never found clear evidence as to how often it really happens.

There are 30 different species of cobras across Asia and Africa. Of those 30 species, scientists analyzed six of them. What they found is that five out of those six snakes resorted to cannibalism at one time or another.

The fact that all the snakes that resorted to cannibalism were males is also very interesting, but more research is needed in order to confirm this. This may be because the competition for mates is high in the snake world, and eating your opponent is a valid tactic in those circumstances.

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