A king snake’s strength is in its squeeze | Science News

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A king snake’s strength is in its squeeze

Studies suggest how the snake coils matters more than muscle size

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2:47pm, March 17, 2017
King snake

HOLD TIGHT  King snakes coil around mice like a spring, squeezing tight enough to stop a rodent’s heart.

It’s not the size of a snake’s muscles that matter, but how it uses them. King snakes can defeat larger snakes in a wrestling match to the death because of how they coil around their prey, researchers report March 15 in the Journal of Experimental Biology.

King snakes wrap around their food and squeeze with about twice as much pressure as rat snakes do, says David Penning, a functional morphologist at Missouri Southern State University in Joplin. Penning, along with colleague Brad Moon at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, measured the constriction capabilities of almost 200 snakes. “King snakes are just little brutes,” Penning says.

King snakes, which are common in North American forests and grasslands, are constrictor snakes that “wrestle for a living,” Penning says. They mainly eat rodents, birds and eggs, squeezing so hard, they can stop their prey’s heart (

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