The struggle to survive isn't always a fair fight. Here's what separates nature's winners from its losers.
Special jaw bones allow a snake to stretch its mouth around prey that's much larger than the snake's head. If you had this ability, you could swallow watermelons whole. Predator vs. Prey: Eastern garter snake vs. American toad
A garter snake’s teeth point backwards. Once the snake bites down, the only direction prey can move is toward the snake’s tummy.
Predators get a nasty surprise when they catch a toad: The toad pees on them. This tinkle attack makes many animals seek a less disgusting dinner.
Toads don’t cause warts, but their skin oozes poison. A mouthful of toad toxin can make a predator’s heart flutter and, in extreme cases, quit beating altogether.
More Than a Mouthful
When threatened, toads gulp air to swell up like warty balloons. This makes toads too fat for some predators to swallow.
And the winner is...
Garter snakes are immune to toad toxin, and they can open their toad-holes wide enough to swallow even fat amphibians. If the garter grabs hold, the toad won’t be hoppy. In fact, it may never be hoppy again.
This Issue's Staff
Nichole LeClair Terrill