“I’ve heard stories of pythons vomiting diamonds,” Enabulele MacDonald recently asked Weird Animal Question of the Week. “Is this true?”
Some questions are just gems.
There is a folklore of Nigerian origin that “a certain snakes will vomit a stone that illuminates an area that snake can hunt at night,” Phillip Scher, an anthropologist at the University of Oregon, says by email. (See our amazing snake pictures.)
The myth may arise from the existence of calculi, similar to the deposits of mineral deposits, in the bodies of some snakes, Scher says.
Though it’s not a source of precious jewels, MacDonald’s question made us wonder: “What are some of the weird things animals do vomit or regurgitate?”
GETTING RID OF SOMETHING UNPLEASANT
Vomiting is “a very active response that makes the brain stem” to an irritant or illness, says Charles Horn, a neuroscientist at the University of Pittsburgh. It involves contraction of the intestines, followed by retching and then the grand exit.
Snakes vomit for the same reasons other animals do-including nerves. This python vomited an entirely antelope likely due to feeling stressed around nosy humans.
Most cat owners deal with hairballs, lovely little packets of matted hair deposited by their pet felines. Hairballs happen when fur gets built in their gastrointestinal tract, setting off receptors that tell the brain to vomit, says Mark Rondeau of the University of Pennsylvania College of Veterinary Medicine.
PYTHON DEVOURS, THEN THROWS UP, AN ANTELOPE Watch a snake lose its lunch. (Warning: this video contains graphic content.)
Regurgitation is a more passive, reflexive process, often brought on by an irritation of the esophagus, he adds. (See “Dino-Era Vomit Fossil Found in England.”)
Kim Jae-yong, director of the California-based Ojai Raptor Center, says by e-mail, “It’s a prejudice, .
In this way, the birds “rid themselves of the waste they can not digest prior to eating again.”