There are 80 species of mammal in Saudi Arabia. Most are rodents. For tiny mammals like this gerbil, the open is a dangerous place. Survival depends on the safety of a burrow.
He forages for seeds and grasses, and even the occasional insect coming out at night means the Gerbil can avoid the sun, but deadly predators roam in the dark.
The horned vipers found his ambush spot.
He’s coiled and ready to strike.
He can detect the vibrations of the approaching prey, feeling its movements as he lines up his attack. He can taste its scent with his forked tongue. After injecting his lethal venom, the viper retreats. Death comes quickly. Prey of this size is usually dead within 90 seconds.
The snake will stay out of the way of its sharp claws and teeth until its victim is helpless. The bones of its lower jaw don’t actually dislocate. They aren’t fused together at all.
The point where they meet at the front and where they connect with the skull at the back is supported by stretchy ligaments.
The viper eats the gerbil head first so that its limbs fold neatly against its body and don’t catch in the snake’s throat.
He tries to do this as quickly as possible because with his mouth full he could be vulnerable to other predators.
It might take half an hour to swallow the gerbil and several days to digest it.