Jaw-dropping footage posted to YouTube shows the horrifying but undeniably impressive efforts of an African rock python swallowing an impala whole – hooves n’ all.
In the footage, posted by MalaMala Game Reserve in South Africa, we can see the impressive stretching capabilities of the python’s jaw – which, contrary to popular belief, doesn’t dislocate to fit its prey but instead relies on stretchy ligaments to go all in on some seriously hard to swallow food.
Launching jaws-first at unsuspecting prey, an African rock python grabs hold of its meal before wrapping its body around it and squeezing tight. Each breath the victim lets out is an opportunity to tighten, allowing these muscular noodles to squeeze the life – or consciousness – out of even large animals.
Things only get nastier from there.
Before beginning their meal, constrictors like the rock python will spend some time looking for the optimal starting point. Only then will they begin the grueling process of consuming their prey, always starting with the head first – a logical move when you consider the friction one might meet when swallowing a chicken backwards, its many feathers working against the esophagus in the same way the stubborn prongs of an arrow make it difficult to pull out
Mouth agape and the impala in, the snake begins to “walk” down its body, making progress by moving the left and right halves of its jaws like cursed little feet inside a fanged oven mitt. Here, the arrow analogy comes in handy again, as the snakes’ rear-facing teeth ensure that the only way is onwards to the impala’s feet and the meal’s end.
If it's not already dead from asphyxiation, the unfortunate victim’s life comes to a definitive end at the stomach, where potent hydrochloric acid and enzymes get to work breaking it down.
You might imagine that being a sentient, muscular sausage with the weight of an entire impala in your stomach isn’t the most comfortable existence – and, as it turns out, it’s not a very safe one either.
Now dead inside the snake, the impala will begin to do what dead things do best: putrefy. With this comes a smorgasbord of unpleasant toxic gases. If its meal goes undigested too long, the snake can die from the gassy environment forming in its gut.
So why take on such a dangerously ambitious bite to eat? If the snake survives the swallowing and digesting of an animal this size, it’ll be fed for several months, meaning it won’t have to bother with the energetically-expensive process of hunting for quite some time.
Think of that the next time you stretch your jaws around an XL pizza and lay back, filled with dough and regret. You’ve not been greedy; you’re simply planning for the future.
[H/T: Live Science]