During a recent trip to Queensland’s Mount Isa, kayaker Martin Muller encountered a gruesome sight: an olive python feasting on an Australian freshwater crocodile it had just squeezed to death.
The photographs, posted on Facebook by Australian nonprofit GG Wildlife Rescue Inc., show the snake wrapping its body around the hapless croc, opening its elastic jaws and swallowing its prey whole. In several shots, the crocodile appears to have completely disappeared down the python’s gullet, but upon closer inspection, viewers can discern the end of the animal’s spiked tail peeking out of the snake’s mouth. Other unsettling scenes include images of the engorged python, its body stretched to accommodate the crocodile’s body, post-mealtime.
Contrary to popular belief, pythons don’t detach their jaws in order to swallow enormous victims. Instead, Corey Binns writes in a separate Live Science article, snakes utilize two lower jaws that move independently of each other but are connected by an elastic ligament. Once a python has its stretched jaws grasped around a target, it compresses its muscles to simultaneously constrict and engulf prey. Per the Herpetological Society of Ireland’s J.P. Dunbar, the set of movements used to send a victim down a python’s throat is known as the “pterygoid walk”; essentially, the snake simply “walks its head over its meal.”
The final step in the python’s feast is digestion. As Live Science’s Pappas writes, the animals are known to alter their metabolism after eating, increasing the size of internal organs including the intestines, heart and pancreas in order to manage the influx of calories. Although snakes digest all of their victims’ bones, flesh and organs, they tend to excrete keratin- and enamel-rich body parts such as scales and teeth.