Very little is recorded of the behavior of most species of this family. One remarkable behavioral feature they have when threatened is to flatten the body and curl the tail backward over the trunk to expose bright red or yellow bands on the ventral tail. This display is often combined with continued movement of the tail and hiding the head under part of the trunk. Thus the hind part of the body gives the appearance of a small cobra in threatening display. If touched, the snakes may eject a fluid from the vent which seems to be a mixture of excretory and scent gland products. Captives usually cease this display within a few weeks. Observations on burrowing in captive C. ruffus show that these snakes are capable of burrowing quickly in loose soils and form tunnels approximately twice the cross sectional area of the body. When in the tunnel, snakes could move in either direction with nearly equal speed and were also capable of turning around in the tunnel and passing back along their own bodies. The feeding behavior of pipe snakes is unusual in that it depends on two distinct mechanisms for moving prey through the mouth. The initial swallowing is done by tiny movements of the upper jaws that also involve slight movements of the lower snout bones. Once the prey reaches the rear of the head, the snakes switch to a mechanism in which the anterior trunk compresses by tight curves of the vertebral column within the skin while the mouth is held closed. The mouth then opens and the vertebral column straightens, shooting the snake's head forward over the prey. This mechanism is very similar to one proposed for burrowing in uropeltids, and it is possible that cylindrophiids use this mechanism during burrowing (although it has not yet been reported).
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