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Gross out?

Get this guy a tissue! Last fall, Manohar--nicknamed Snake Mano--from Chennai, India, threaded a live snake up his nostril and out of his mouth.

How did Mano pull off the slithery feat? "The nasal passage and mouth are connected in the pharynx [back of the throat]," says Dr. Jerry Schreibstein from the American Academy of Otolaryngology (study of ear, nose, and throat disorders). The pharynx is attached to two pathways: a pipe that carries air to your lungs, and the esophagus (food pipe), which delivers food to your stomach.

Normally, if you pop a snack--or in Mano's case a snake--into your mouth, your soft palate (flaplike tissue at the back of the roof of the mouth) seals off your pharynx from the back of your nose. That way the snack travels down the food pipe Instead of spraying out of your nose. But--as anyone who has laughed with a mouthful of milk knows--this isn't a fail-safe seal. "When you laugh, the palate doesn't seal completely and milk can come shooting from your nose," explains Schreibstein.

Mano's secret? Schreibstein says he probably keeps his palate open by breathing through his nose. Then he can thread the snake through his pharynx to his mouth.

But this stunt isn't for everyone. For protection against swallowing foreign objects, most people have a gag reflex. It automatically closes off your palate when an object, such as a toothbrush, touches the back of your throat. Mano's gag reflex probably isn't very sensitive, Schreibstein says.

Does his stunt put Mano in any danger? "I definitely wouldn't try this," says Schreibstein. "Stuffing an object in your nose could cause breathing difficulties." And if the snake were to slide down Mano's esophagus--he'd have a dangerous bellyful!
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Title Annotation:Activities & Oddities
Author:Bryner, Jeanna
Publication:Science World
Date:Apr 26, 2004
Previous Article:Hands-on science (no lab required).
Next Article:Explain this!

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