An unimaginable video reveals an African rock python (Python sebae), one of many largest snake species on the planet, slowly swallowing an impala entire. The video, recorded in MalaMala Recreation Reserve in South Africa, reveals the snake’s head slowly slinking throughout the impala’s physique because the snake appears to magically stretch barely broad sufficient to swallow the creature entire.
Amazingly, taking down such a big animal just isn’t out of the unusual for these predators, consultants advised Reside Science. These snakes can attain a formidable 20 toes (6 meters) lengthy, and so they might prey upon creatures even longer.
“Pythons are ambush hunters,” mentioned Matthew Johnston, an affiliate professor of avian, unique and zoological drugs at Colorado State College. “They may take down no matter occurs to stroll in entrance of them when they’re hungry.”
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Usually, Johnston advised Reside Science, rock pythons hand around in rocky outcroppings and caves, tasting the air with a particular sense organ of their mouths referred to as Jacobson’s organ. Rock pythons’ forked tongues permit them not solely to make use of Jacobson’s organ to style scents from close by animals but additionally to detect delicate adjustments in air temperature that happen when a warm-blooded animal comparable to an impala (Aepyceros melampus) wanders shut by.
When the snake strikes, its mouth opens a full 180 levels, permitting it to punch its prey with a mouthful of enamel. As soon as the enamel have sunk into the pores and skin, the snake quickly coils its physique across the animal.
After the strike comes probably the most brutal points of the rock python’s looking techniques: The strike does not really kill its goal. As an alternative, the python wraps its muscular physique round its sufferer, cinching its vise-like grip tighter each time the animal takes a breath, till it passes out. As soon as it is time to eat, the python swallows its catch entire, irrespective of how large it’s.
This all the time appears to contain swallowing the animal head first.
“I’ve seen constrictor species seek for upwards of an hour to search out the top of a prey animal,” Tom Weaver, assistant curator of ectotherms at Denver Zoo, advised Reside Science. This may increasingly give the snake the perfect shot at consuming prey shortly, as a result of the angle of feathers or fur would possibly create the least quantity of resistance if the snake is swallowing its prey from the top down.
Each ingesting and digesting massive prey pose distinctive challenges to the rock python.
Earlier than it begins the painfully sluggish means of swallowing its prey entire, the python has to wrap its entire mouth across the catch. Opposite to widespread lore, the snake doesn’t really unhinge its jaws, each consultants mentioned. As an alternative, its jaws are held collectively by a collection of ligaments that behave like skinny, stretchy rubber bands. Meaning the snake does not must dislocate all sides of its jaw from the opposite, as a result of the jaw bones are barely connected to one another to start with. This adaptation permits the left and proper halves of the jaw to “stroll” alongside the physique of enormous prey, Johnston mentioned. The snake makes use of one facet of its rear-facing enamel to grip meals whereas twisting its head to maneuver the opposite facet alongside the physique.
It is not the strike or the constriction that kills prey; it is abdomen acid, Johnston mentioned. The within of a snake’s abdomen is nearly pure hydrochloric acid.
“We have now stomachs with a pH of 4 or 5, however pythons have a pH of 1,” he mentioned.
The sturdy acid not solely kills the prey by dissolving it but additionally protects the snake. After consuming a big meal, the python is in a digestive race in opposition to putrefaction. It has to fully digest its meal earlier than it begins rotting. If prey does rot earlier than digestion, poisonous gases can construct up within the digestive tract, probably killing the snake.
As soon as the snake has swallowed its meal, it usually finds a spot to cover and digest. If the meal was impala-size, it is perhaps months earlier than the snake is hungry once more.
Nonetheless, instantly after consuming such an enormous meal, the African rock python can have some hassle transferring. After a big meal, a python can have a meals bulge that may make slithering sluggish. Giant meals, like an impala, would possibly create a meals bulge that lasts just a few weeks earlier than totally breaking down. Throughout this time, will probably be susceptible to assault, wherein case it should regurgitate your entire kill to be able to escape.
Though it could appear to be a simple kill for a fearsome predator, dwelling on a food plan of enormous prey is something however simple.
Initially printed on Reside Science.