How a snake breathes while it eats
Just because they work for a conservation board doesn't mean that naturalists know everything.
Just last week, naturalist Ashley Hansen was feeding Rosie the corn snake when she noticed a hole open up in the snake's mouth while it was eating a mouse --- the Dickinson County Nature Center snakes are fed mice that are frozen and then thawed as food.
Watch this video to see what Ashley saw.
She wasn't sure what the hole was, so we started to research it --- the best way to answer a question that you have --- and found out the hole in the bottom of a snake's mouth is a glottis.
Snakes have nostrils, just like humans, and they breathe through them and use them to smell. However, their best sense of smell comes from using their tongue, and they can also breathe through their mouths, like humans, by using their glottis.
The glottis is the opening in the bottom of a snake's mouth that is kept closed except when inhaling. It is connected to the trachea, or windpipe, which lets the air that is inhaled fill its lungs.
The glottis is extremely helpful, because when a snake is eating, it can move its glottis off to the side so that its prey does not prevent it from opening and allows the snake to still breath while it is eating. It's like chewing with your mouth open --- it's bad manners for people, but not for snakes!
A small piece of cartilage inside the glottis vibrates when the snake forcefully breathes out, and this is what makes the characteristic hiss that most people think of when they think of snakes. It's not the snake's tongue at all!
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