A viral photograph, most likely from Southeast Asia, reveals a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. A bloody fight between two scaly titans recently ended in a draw, leaving a twisted, horrific spectacle in its wake. One of the contestants, a king cobra, was strangled. A reticulated python, the second, had also di.ed. After being bitten behind the head by a cobra and suffering from the hooded snake’s lethal venom, the python attempted to defend itself by squeezing its foe to death. It went off without a hitch. Neither, however, made it out alive.
“It’s absurd, yet it’s something I can imagine occurring…” “It’s a dangerous world out there, eating other enormous snakes and things that may kill you,” says Coleman Sheehy of the Florida Museum of Natural History, who believes the deadly struggle took place in Southeast Asia, where the two snake species overlap. Both snakes are outliers among their slithering kin, and, as is customary, a photo of the bodies was posted on Facebook.
Herpetologists and others were amazed by the bizarre sight (we’ve all heard of the ouroboros, a symbol portraying a serpent swallowing its own tail, but who has ever seen a dead python wrapped around a dead cobra?). The American Museum of Natural History’s Frank Burbrink comments, “It appears real, not altered.” “This is an odd sensation, but a lot of what happens with snakes is never seen.” Even when two massive snake species are involved, this is true.
The world’s longest venomous snakes, king cobras may grow up to 18 feet long. And, as their genus name Ophiophagus suggests, king cobras eat other snakes. When these cobras strike, they inject a deadly combination into the base of their victim’s skulls and ki.ll, paralyzing their neurological systems and paralyzing their prey. Sheehy says, “They can fight just much any snake they come across.”
Reticulated pythons, on the other hand, are the world’s largest snakes, reaching lengths of over 30 feet in some cases. They strangle their victim, which is mainly mammals rather than other snakes, with their muscles. “It was king cobra to python if there was a predatory event here,” Burbrink says. “Neither of them were successful,” says the narrator. (A virgin was born to the world’s longest snake.) It’s uncertain how common these kind of apex snake clashes are in nature. And Burbrink isn’t convinced that this life-or-death struggle was the result of a random encounter.
“We know cobras eat other snakes,” Burbrink continues, “but you never know whether people are doing dumb things to set things up.” “Let’s see what happens if you dump these individuals in a ditch,” says the narrator. They may have gone at it since there’s a berm on both sides, but it could also have happened in the wild. I wish I had been there to see it.” Regardless of the cause, the sequence of events in this circumstance appears to be clear.