The animal kingdom often produces rare winners in the natural selection battle. Vultures, for instance, can easily take down calves in a fight by pecking their eyes out and then skinning them alive. (For whatever reason, PETA has not chosen to protest this mistreatment of veal.)
The same thing goes for animals that take down humans. Can you name the deadliest animal on earth? Tiger? Bear? Not even close. Try the mosquito, which kills three-quarters of a million people a year. Second place? Humans, who kill another 430,000 humans. Snakes come in at number three.
Those are mostly venomous snakes. Without some poison to back them up, you would figure that snakes would be sitting ducks for crocodiles. After all, crocs are pretty much vicious, razor-toothed barbarians descended from the dinosaurs. Surely even the mighty python can’t dethrone the crocodile, right?
For all I know, if a python and crocodile were to meet a hundred times, the croc would win 99 of the matchups. However, this time the python managed to not only come out ahead, but it also swallowed the crocodile whole.
The fight between the olive python and the Australian freshwater crocodile was caught on camera by GG Wildlife Rescue in Mount Isa, Queensland, Australia, and posted on Facebook last month.
I must warn the squeamish that this probably isn’t for you. For everyone else, however, it’s a rare look at some of the surprises that nature provides when two titans collide.
Here are the original pictures:
The first shot in the sequence of pictures by Martin Muller shows the python on top of the crocodile, ready to eat it. (Mueller, it must be noted, was kayaking in the area when he took these pictures. That he stayed says quite a bit about the intestinal fortitude of the Aussies — assuming, of course, he is Australian.)
The python went about devouring its meal:
“Pythons are known for their dietary ambition,” Live Science noted. “The large snakes have been found with the remains of everything — from deer larger than themselves and impalas to prickly porcupines — in their bellies. These snakes also happily eat one another, as witnessed in May in Western Australia. On very rare occasions, some python species will even attack and eat humans.”
Of course, the crocodile wasn’t just waiting around for this to happen. The python is deadly because it kills its prey by constricting them. As USA Today reported in 2017, when a reticulated python killed and swallowed an Indonesian farmer, it only takes minutes for one to kill a human and an hour to devour them.
The python has several adaptations that allow it to swallow animals like, well, this crocodile whole and digest them quickly. First is an elastic jaw with the lower portion divided into two parts.
“When a python has a prey animal subdued, the snake first “walks” over it, a process called the pterygoid walk. Then, the snake uses its jaw to hang onto the prey while compressing its muscles and slithering around the subdued animal until the meal is engulfed,” Live Science reported.
Not only that, but the snake can also alter the size of its internal organs to handle the energy that it’s absorbing; this includes the intestines, kidney and pancreas.
However, not all food agrees with the python. Back in 2003, National Geographic reported that a python in the Everglades was found split open after eating an alligator. It was unclear whether the meal was too much for it or it was attacked after it ate the animal.
The crocodile being similar to the alligator, this might not have turned out well for the python. However, we haven’t heard of any such discovery. Until then, what is clear is that a) nature can certainly produce some odd victors in fights like this and b) the fauna of Australia are still just as nightmare-inducing as ever.
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