A video that's being circulated on social media appears to show a headless snake still moving around on a beach, searching for the man who is filming it and agitating it with a tennis racket.
Originally posted to the Reddit forum Australia, the anonymous user speculated that the snake had been dropped on the beach by a bird, following the removal of its head by said bird, with another chunk having been taken out of its side.
He claims he found the snake while on a walk with his dog.
"I reckon it was a bird that did it," he wrote on Reddit. "There are also a few birds of prey in the area."
Though we aren't ruling out some clever CGI, it is possible that the footage is authentic.
“Snakes in general are well known for retaining reflexes after death," Steven Beaupré, a biology professor at the University of Arkansas told Live Science after a chef in China was bitten and killed by a dead snake's head in 2014. "These eerie post-mortem movements are fueled by the ions, or electrically charged particles, which remain in the nerve cells of a snake for several hours after it dies. When the nerve of a newly dead snake is stimulated, the channels in the nerve will open up, allowing ions to pass through. This creates an electrical impulse that enables the muscle to carry out a reflexive action, like a bite.”
Cold-blooded animals don't need to generate their own heat, getting it from external sources. This means that their oxygen requirements are lower and can still reflexively move for some time after death.
“By the time the snake has lost its head, it’s dead and the basic body functions have ceased, but there is still some reflexive action. In other words, snakes have the capability of causing biting and injecting venom even after the head has been severed, even though it is dead.”
It's also possible that the snake in the video still had part of its brain following the bird attack, as was the case for Mike the headless chicken who continued living for 18 months despite a farmer's botched attempt to chop its head off. The almost-decapitation removed the majority of its head, but part of the brain survived. The unlucky bird was able to be kept alive as it was fed through a hole using a syringe following the unsuccessful decapitation attempt.