Gerard's Mud Snake wins the title for mudwrestling champ. It takes on prey several times its size and far larger than its mouth can manage. Unlike other snakes that swallow their food whole, this contortionist twists its body in a "loop-and-pull" move to tear its meal into bite-sized pieces. The snake typically lurks in Southeast Asian mangrove forests where it waits until nightfall to nab wandering prey. A stealthy predator, it hunts using its tongue to "taste" the air. It sniffs out crabs that have recently molted their hard shells, which makes them easier to tear apart. Few specimens of Gerard's Mud Snake exist in Museum collections. The species was even considered extinct at one location.
But Field Museum researchers helped uncover the snake's hunting techniques and hideouts (mud-lobster mounds)—revealing a healthier population than expected. The Museum's collection of reptiles and amphibians ranks among the top six in the United States. These specimens help to document diversity and monitor habitat loss and population levels worldwide.