Are corn snakes cannibalistic?

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Everyone loves to keep one type of pet or the other. Dog and cats have been man’s best friends for ages, and we have established a symbiotic relationship with them. For example, cats help us get rid of mice while creating a space for it to live in our homes.
Apart from the regular pet lovers, there are some Reptile lovers who prefer to keep snakes, Geckos, Lizards, and all sorts of reptiles. Corn snakes are the most common species that are kept in the terrarium by humans.
Cannibalism is an important factor to consider before keeping any pet together, and luckily, the corn snakes are not cannibals. As you read on, you will learn more about their unique feeding habits and adequately grasp the concept of cannibalism.

Are corn snakes cannibilistic
Are corn snakes cannibalistic

What is Cannibalism?

Cannibalism is an unusual feeding pattern where an organism eats up another organism of its kind(conspecific). This phenomenon is rare but exists even among humans. However, it is most common among some species of animals. 

In some human cultures, they eat the flesh of other humans for ritual purposes, especially as a funeral rite. The word cannibal comes from the root word “cannibale” and is of a Spanish origin. The first use of the word was by Christopher Columbus, a famous explorer. He and other seafarers coined this name during their voyages of the 15th century, where they discovered the indigenous people on the West Indian islands. They found it utterly ridiculous that a human could be eating the flesh of another. 

The word was used by Christopher Columbus for a Caribbean tribe in Cuba and Haiti who allegedly ate human flesh. The term is applied to both humans and animals that eat their conspecifics. Cannibalism is a form of ingestion that has been demonstrated in almost all animal phyla. It occurs in both carnivores and herbivores. Usually, the weaker conspecifics are killed and eaten. In some insects, the males are eaten by their female partners during or after mating. Such behavior is called sexual cannibalism. 

In zoology, a basic distinction is made between two forms of cannibalism, which are; active and passive cannibalism. Active cannibals devour those whom they caught and killed themselves. Passive cannibals limit themselves to eating dead individuals of their species.

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Many animals, under favorable environmental conditions, are not cannibals; however, in the event of a threat to their existence, they become such. Mice and rats are prone to cannibalism when the population is overcrowded. Their high fertility often creates conditions for the development of bloodthirsty inclinations in adults; thus, they satisfy their hunger by killing the young.

Cannibalism is also common among birds, especially among crows: adult birds eat both strangers and their chicks. Lack of food and population growth contributes to cannibalism. Many gulls also feed on their neighbors’ chicks. Avian cannibalism is a reaction to unfavorable conditions; in this case, such a condition is an overpopulation of the bird colony. Other birds are skuas – They feed on eggs and chicks of chicks and gulls.

The female praying mantis eats the male immediately after mating, providing her body with the substances necessary to develop fertilized eggs. This behavior is also characteristic of ladybug larvae – they are cannibals by nature. Spotted hyena cubs see each other as competitors and fight for survival, killing rivals with whom they should have shared food. Cannibalism is also inherent in wolves and tigers.

The Benefits of Cannibalism: At first glance, it seems that cannibalism is a meaningless phenomenon. However, it is necessary for the survival of some species. Overcrowding of the population leads to a rapid reduction in food sources and is the main reason for the extinction of the species in the area. In a fierce winter or a drought, the survival of a small number of animals eating their conspecific is more advantageous than the existence of many hungry individuals with their subsequent death from lack of food. So, for example, cannibalism is an innate instinct of the garlic tadpole.

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Cannibalism in Animals

So many animals exhibit cannibalism in their feeding pattern. Some are listed below.

Tadpoles: Some species become cannibals due to difficult conditions of survival. Know that these little beasts can suddenly become bloodthirsty predators for their fellows because of starvation: the type that makes them fear not having enough to eat. 

Praying mantises: During or after mating, the female mantis devours the male. And it has nothing to do with highly disrupted sexual practices. When the female eats her partner, it is because she needs the nutrient for the energy, which will allow her to lay eggs and hatch them.

Grizzly Bears: Their males are a danger to the poor helpless little cubs that he can potentially attack and devour. They lash out at weaker adults when they cannot find anything else to fill their appetite.

Hamsters: In this rodent, the postpartum period can be a bit tragic. Indeed, the mother who gave birth will eat the umbilical cord of her young. And if when she continues to chew on him, he does not defend himself, she will continue to devour him. It is the baby’s resistance that will trigger her “awareness” and make her stop. If the baby reacts and cries, she stops; if he is too weak, adios. It sometimes happens that the mother devours her young in the following weeks if she is under stress.

The King Cobras: This snake is particularly awkward since it feeds mainly on snakes: snakes, pythons, and of course, other king cobras. You should know that to kill its victim, the snake bites it and injects it with a venom, which attaches the nervous system of the latter, causing him facial paralysis, dizziness, blurred vision then. After that, it is eaten. 

Pelican Spiders: They originate from Madagascar and are said to have existed for 180 million years. Their method of devouring their fellows is cunning and vicious but effective. They titillate the web of their victim who thinks it is about to corner a prey, except that, surprised, and it is about to get eaten.

Octopuses: They mainly feed on mussels. Except that sometimes, they are a little too lazy to chase them and would rather feed on their conspecifics. This is one of the explanations that would justify these bloodthirsty attacks. 

Bees: When the beehive is in peril, these little insects attack the larvae and nymphs. 

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Cannibalism in Snakes

A group of serpentologists from Spain, the United States, and Mexico led by Estrella Mocino and Kirk Setser of the University of Granada (Universidad de Granada) studied the causes of cannibalism in snakes. It turned out that by eating part of their offspring, snakes restore the strength spent on reproduction. The results pertaining to this study have been published in the journal Animal Behavior.

Since 2004, scientists have observed Crotalus Polystichum snakes in central Mexico, where the species is endemic. Serpentologists registered 239 clutches of eggs and followed the behavior of the females. As you know, most rattlesnakes are ovoviviparous; that is, live cubs break the egg membranes within a few minutes after oviposition. Scientists noticed that 68% of the females ate the cubs, and some of them did so immediately after laying eggs – when it is impossible to determine whether the newborns are alive or not. Of the 190 females seen in cannibalism, only a few showed patience and waited about 16 hours to “cull” the stillborn.

“By eating unviable offspring, the female rattlesnake restores strength, which otherwise she can only replenish at the expense of caught prey. And hunting for snakes is a hazardous activity that requires a lot of time and energy,” says Estrella Mosinho.

Cannibalism in one form or another is characteristic not only of rattlesnakes but also polar bears, various rodents, fish, gravedigger beetles, and some species of spiders. So, scientists who observed the behavior of Mediterranean tarantulas noted that about a third of females after fertilization ate not only their partners but also any males they met. It turned out that a cannibal female lays about 30% more eggs than a normal female, and her offspring are noticeably larger and more viable.

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Is it a Good Idea to get two corn snakes at once

Snakes are not social creatures, so they can stay on their own and do well. However, in a case where you are keeping them as a pet in an enclosure, they can live together without much trouble. 

If you think of keeping two corn snakes together, then getting them simultaneously, around the same size and age, is the best option. Should there be a substantial age gap between them, it can result in the casualty of the weaker/ smaller one. Furthermore, if you get a pet corn snake early and introduce another later, the first one may become territorially inclined. Therefore, to answer the question, Is it a good idea to get two corn snakes at once? The answer is, “Yes!”. 

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Will Corn Snakes eat Each Other?

Cannibalism is a common phenomenon among snakes, but there are many species who will never eat a member of their conspecific under any circumstances.

Corn snakes are a gentle breed of serpent, which are easy to maintain. Thus they are the most common snake pets in the world. Corn Snakes are not cannibalistic. Therefore they will not eat each other when kept together even if one is very big and small. The worse thing that will happen between two corn snakes is that they will constantly get into a fight with each other. In the end, the stronger of the snakes will dominate over the weaker one, but they will hardly hurt each other since they are not a violent snake species.

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Can two Female Corn Snakes Live Together?

Absolutely! As has been already stated, Corn snakes can do well individually and together with other snakes of their kind. You can keep 

Two female corn snakes together in the vivarium and non will bother the other. If a male and a female are put together, it would be better for the sake of breeding.

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What Snakes can live Together?

Snakes generally are known not to be social creatures. However, some species display a warm disposition towards other species or those of their conspecifics. 

Rattle Snake: For example, female forest rattlesnakes are social. According to Ruton Clark, a US Biologist from Cornell University, he noted that this specific snake loves to hang around its siblings and other close relatives. They display a warm affection towards their relatives and love to cuddle. They also stay close to their offspring.

The researcher looked at how close the snakes correlated with each other when at rest or during various activities. The female reptile needed more intimacy than the male does and allow her siblings to be closer.

Garter Snake: Noam Miller, a comparative psychologist from Wilfrid Laurier University, experimented with 40 Gartner snakes. He placed a group of ten snakes, each with a colored spot on its head, in a body covered by a wall-less than one meter on each side. 

Armed with a camera that monitors the movement of the snakes, Twice a day, he cleaned their enclosure to eliminate odors, and at the same time, take note of their groupings via camera. The cameras were then checked to see if the same groups had been reconstructed.

When grater snakes were in a group, they tended to do what the group does, regardless of who they are. In general, snakes spend about 94% of their time in a shelter. Miller explains that there are benefits from being social, especially for baby snakes. For example, a group absorbs heat and moisture better than an individual. If a predator attacks, everyone in the group can have a better chance of being left alone. Snakes can also receive information from each other – if one snake sees another person looking, it receives a signal that it is safe to leave.

When they were in a group, they also tended to do what the group did, regardless of their personal behavior. Also, the snakes spent about 94% of the time in a shelter. Animals who had more snakes in their shelter were less likely to leave. There are several benefits of being social, particularly for the younger snakes, Miller explained. For example, a group will retain moisture and heat better than an individual. Furthermore, if a predator attacks, each individual in the group, they have a better chance of escaping than when alone. Snakes also get information from each other—when one snake sees another out exploring, it receives the signal if it’s safe to go out or not.

He, however, cautioned that the new results might not be the same under a different environment than in the man-made terrarium. However, he says the findings are an important start, and the social behavior of reptiles in general, and snakes in particular, is more complex and more important than we think.

Miller says he knows snakes have companions who can help protect them: Species that migrate to safer habitats leave them, much to conservatives’ dismay. 

However, if they know that snakes prefer hanging in groups, the transplant may encourage them to keep them in a new location to move the entire group or pre-treat them to a new location with the scent of the species.

Therefore there are a few species of snakes who would do just fine on their own and together as a group. Before selecting a breed, you wish to keep together, you will need to carry out an extensive interview to know their behavior and how pleasant they are.

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In conclusion, The concept of cannibalism may be absurd, but it also has some benefits. For example, it is the only way some certain organisms can survive under an extreme condition of famine. Also, it helps to eliminate the weaker species from the race of an organism, thereby preserving the healthy genes and creating an overall stronger population.

Corn snakes are an important species of snakes that humans usually prefer to keep as pets due to their calm disposition and less propensity to be aggressive. An adult snake can live in the same terrarium with a younger one, and in the end, they won’t bother each other. Both of them will quietly occupy a different space and live there. Corn snakes are not cannibalistic, and therefore you don’t need to worry about them eating each other up or not. 

Hazel Buckley
Hazel Buckley

About Hazel Buckley
Hazel is an animal enthusiast and educator who grew up on a farm which her parents owned in Ingogo, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.  The farm was situated right under the Majuba Mountains - the site where the Anglo-Boer War was fought. 

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure that the information published on this website is accurate, the author and owners of this website take no responsibility  for any loss or damage suffered as a result of relience upon the information contained therein.  Furthermore the bulk of the information is derived from information in 2018 and use therefore is at your on risk. In addition you should consult professional advice if required.