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Pipe Snakes: Cylindrophiidae


The red-tailed pipe snake, and probably the other eight species, eats long and thin animals, including other snakes, eels, and lengthy lizards. For this reason, their jaws do not need to open as wide and their necks and bodies do not need to stretch as much as other snakes, which eat prey that are larger around. The pipe snakes are constrictors (kun-STRIK-tuhrs), which means that the snake will grasp its prey by looping its body around the animal and squeezing. For small prey, the snake may hold the animal just until it can reach its head around and eat it. For larger animals, the snake squeezes the prey until it cannot breathe and stops moving before eating it. People who keep pipe snakes in captivity find that the snakes will also eat small mice and fish.

Pipe snakes swallow in an unusual way. After swallowing part-way with some of the prey still hanging outside, the snake shuts its mouth, curves its backbone back and forth, and then reopens its mouth while quickly straightening out the backbone, which causes the head to shoot forward over more of the prey's body. Some people believe the snake may dig through the soil by the same method, but no one has seen this.


Scientific names for animals, such as Cylindrophis ruffus, may appear to be long and confusing, but they actually make it much easier for researchers to tell animals apart. This is because all scientists around the world use the same scientific names no matter what language they speak. This is not true of common names. For example, among just the English-speaking people, some use the common name of pipe snake for the nine species in the family Cylindrophiidae, but others use it to mean the species in the family Aniliidae or those in the family Anomochilidae. A scientific name has two parts: the genus name, which notes the general group to which the animal belongs, and the species name, which reveals the exact type of animal. In addition, the genus name tells scientists which animals are the most closely related. All nine members of the Cylindrophiidae family, for instance, are of the same genus and are therefore closely related.

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceDinosaurs, Snakes, and Other ReptilesPipe Snakes: Cylindrophiidae - Physical Characteristics, Diet, Behavior And Reproduction, Red-tailed Pipe Snake (cylindrophis Ruffus): Species Account - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, PIPE SNAKES AND PEOPLE, CONSERVATION STATUS