Watch This 'Savage, Ferocious' Snake Rip Its Prey into Pieces While Still Alive

One of the most curious snake species on the planet is the cat-eyed water snake, a menacing creature with a penchant for soft crabs that tears its prey into bits while still alive.

This decidedly picky species will only gobble the right kind of crab when it has been freshly molted. After the morsel sheds its exoskeleton, the snake pounces, peeling away different sections of its body—as it is still alive—until it has been swallowed in its entirety, piece by piece.

Unlike larger snakes, which can take hours to swallow their dinner, the cat-eyed water (Gerarda prevostiana) snake crams down the moving crab in only a couple of minutes. These slithering serpents live in brackish or salt waters throughout Southeast Asia and can defeat crustaceans four times their size, due to an extendable jaw.

"Like most snakes, the skin in their chin region and their neck can just extend to accommodate large prey," Bruce Jayne, professor of biology at the University of Cincinnati, told Newsweek. "The bones of their lower jaw are long and slender, which also helps make a big circular opening. However, they have an very unusual behavior that allows them to overcome these anatomical limits on prey size."

Cat Eyed Water Snake
A cat eyed water snake attacking a crab. Professor Bruce Jayne/Department of Biological Sciences, University of Cincinnati

Like a high-end chef choosing the finest meat, these snakes will only attack prey when they are just ripe for the picking, around 10 to 15 minutes after the animals have molted their shells.

"The Halloween-like surprise is the snake's ho hum appearance and yet savage behavior!" says Jayne.

Jayne has studied these predators in the field and in the lab in Singapore to examine their behaviour. It has a "most un-snake-like behavior" claims the professor, who only found out these creatures were big crab fans by working his finger along their bodies and forcing them to regurgitate what they had eaten after being captured in the field.

"We were able to do a study of the diet of the snake without having to kill the snakes. When we did that, I'll be darned, we discovered they were eating crabs," he said.

Jayne brought some of the reptiles into his lab and tried every trick he could to get them to eat crabs, but no luck. It was only when he tried to feed them a crab that had freshly molted that a snake finally took the bait. In his fascinating infrared video, the snake attacks an extremely large crab—one that is at least four times as big as the snake's head

The snake attacks the creature in one vicious motion, latching on to the crab's leg and almost immediately ripping it away from its body, while keeping the crustacean in place with the rest of its curled up body. The crab is struggling but it's a losing battle—the snake works its way around the animal, picking off several limbs before going in for a final bite on the remainder of its body.

"Just as you can't judge a book by its cover, you would never guess that this little snake with such mundane appearance was such a ferocious and accomplished predator," says Jayne.