Ever had that nasty feeling that you’ve simply eaten too much? Maybe you have suffered from embarrassing indigestion, or perhaps you have even been so full that you feel you just can’t move!
Snakes – in particular pythons and boas – are renowned for swallowing large prey items. Their lower jaws are not rigidly attached to the skull and, unlike mammals, are not comprised entirely of bone, being interrupted by an elastic ligament in front. This arrangement introduces great flexibility and range of movement. Nevertheless, snakes are quite capable of ‘biting off more than they can chew’ (figuratively speaking)….
In May 2017, a Chinese farmer in Ximeixiang, Fujian Province, was searching for a missing goat when he came upon a large python entangled in a mesh fence. It had become trapped whilst attempting to consume the goat, which was lying dead under the huge snake. Incredibly, pythons have the same level of protection in China as Giant Pandas. The farmer contacted forestry police, who were quickly on the scene to extricate the snake from the fence. It was found to measure 3.4 metres in length, with a diameter of 36 centimetres and a weight of 21.5 kilograms. The python was estimated to have been trapped in the fence for more than ten hours. After receiving treatment for its wounds, it was later released.
Naturalised Burmese Pythons have long been a concern in Florida’s Everglades, and in 2015 researchers from the Conservancy of Southwest Florida were presented with a graphic example of the destructive capacity of these animals to take down large prey.
A 3.3-metre female python was initially discovered and captured in a bloated and obviously stressed condition. Her eyes were obviously too big for her stomach, because later, to the amazement of astonished onlookers, she proceeded to regurgitate a young White-tailed Deer. In what has been touted as the most extreme python-to-prey ratio ever documented, the fawn weighed in at 15.88kg versus the python’s 14.29kg, meaning that prey constituted 111.1% of the weight of predator!
The dangers of gluttony led to its inclusion amongst the ‘seven deadly sins’, and it would seem to be equally hazardous for snakes as well.