One species of snake seems to be subscribing a bit too heavily to the idea that “you are what you eat”; in Far North Queensland, Australia, a black-headed python has been spotted snacking on another member of its species.
The sight of one black-headed python gulping down another wasn’t exactly what Nick Stock, sanctuary manager at the Australian Wildlife Conservancy’s (AWC) Piccaninny Plains Wildlife Sanctuary, expected to see that day.
In fact, it wasn’t until he got closer to the snake feast he’d just spotted, that he realized he was witnessing a case of cannibalism – a larger black-head python had constricted around, and was eating a smaller black-head python, tail first.
“Fortunately for me but not-so-fortunately for the python being consumed, it took around 15 minutes from when I first witnessed the initial constriction to the python finishing its meal and returning to its burrow which was only about 10 feet [3 meters] away,” said Stock, describing the event in a statement. “This gave me plenty of time to get a camera and document the event.”
It’s not unusual to find a black-headed python chowing down on another snake – reptiles are a primary component of their diet – and Stock had seen the python eating other snakes before.
“I have previously witnessed Black-headed Pythons eating an Eastern Brown Snake and a Yellow Spotted Monitor, however, this was the first time I witnessed a Black-headed Python eating another Black-headed Python.”
The sanctuary manager was lucky; this kind of cannibalistic behavior has rarely been captured on film outside of captivity, according to Helena Stokes, a wildlife ecologist at AWC.
However, Stokes wasn’t taken aback by this activity. “Black-headed Pythons prefer to eat reptiles over mammals and are known to eat larger reptiles including goannas, and even venomous snakes, so I’m not surprised that they would consume another python if the opportunity arose,” the ecologist explained. “By consuming other individuals, they are also reducing competition for resources in the area.”
If you want to know more about black-headed pythons, check out the video above, in which Terri Irwin calls them “very sweet” – we think smaller members of the snake species might be inclined to disagree.