Deer, snake, Indian Forest Service, Susanta Nanda, herbivores, carnivores
The video was shared on Twitter by Susanta Nanda, who identifies as a staff of the Indian Forest Service. (Image: @susantananda3 / Twitter)

Viral video showing deer eating snake shocks netizens, sparks debate on ‘food chain collapse’

Turns out, hunger can push a living being to extremes – even to going against its inherent nature in order to survive.

A baffling video has emerged on social media showing a deer eating a snake, breaking the age-old scientific theory of herbivores only feeding on plant material for their survival.

Shared on Twitter by Susanta Nanda, who identifies as a staff of the Indian Forest Service, the video has gone viral on social media, inviting surprise, yikes, and a fair amount of scepticism from netizens.

“The food chain is collapsed,” said one user.

“Is it really true? What may be the reason for deer to eat snake?” commented another user.

Also read: Bishnoi community says deer being fed to cheetas, asks PM to intervene

Another user shared a similar, but more graphic video of a monkey eating a live deer.

Some users were sceptic about the video and said it seems the deer was attacked by the snake and was trying to get rid of it.

“No, it’s hung on side of mouth and deer trying get it off by moving mouth. Look closer. Everyone posting this then getting rip by saying he eating it. Probably got bit while eating grass (sic),” another user on Twitter said.

Some gave it a religious twist saying it was bound to happen in “kalyug” while others cracked up, making comments like “Deer be like…aaj me saap khake aya (I had snake today).”

Can herbivores turn carnivore?

Most of the research on herbivores disagree with the theory that they can turn “non-vegetarian” in extreme situations.

Scientists say, herbivores have teeth specialised for grinding plants and which, unlike carnivores, won’t help them tear complex meat structures. They also lack special enzymes that carnivores have, to digest the meat.

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“Many herbivorous mammals have wide molars. These big teeth help them grind up leaves and grasses. Carnivorous mammals, on the other hand, usually have long, sharp teeth that help them grab prey and rip it apart,” says an encyclopedic entry in the National Geographic.

Some studies, however, point out that ‘opportunistic carnivores’ like deer, cows, and horses may not hunt but will eat meat when pushed to extremes.

“A herbivore that is willing to occasionally eat meat has the potential to either exploit an available niche as a predator, or to survive a brief period of starvation by eating the carcasses of its prey. In the case of a carnivore, it is important to note that it does not necessarily have to be a meat eater,” says an article in Rustically.

Also read: Regulated harvest of tigers, elephants need of the hour: Madhav Gadgil

The article also supports the claim that deer have exhibited meat-eating tendencies and can consume it from time to time.

It, however, points out that meat is not suitable for herbivores, and animals which depend on it are prone to suffering from indigestion and malnutrition.

“The herbivore will eventually die in the end,” it adds.

In some cases, meat-eating by herbivores could also lead to life-threatening diseases. A classic example is the Mad Cow disease which afflicted bovines in Canada and the US in the 1960s.

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