While visiting the Florida Everglades in the last week of March, Katina Boychew witnessed an alligator wrestling with a Burmese python. Boychew pulled out her phone to record the rare sight: the state’s most iconic reptile thrashing one of its most maligned. She later shared the video on social media with the caption: “Gator vs. python.”
The gator and the snake were in a wallowed-out marsh when Boychew happened to walk past the scene. By the time she started recording, the gator had already killed the python. With the snake firmly in its jaws, the alligator shook its prize back and forth, slamming it into the ground like a legless rag doll.
“He was whipping it around for a while,” Boychew told Fox-35 News, adding that she recorded the action from only 10 feet away. “I knew [the gator] was preoccupied, so he wasn’t going to bother me. He [wasn’t] going to let go of his python.”
While the gator seems to enjoy flinging the lifeless snake around, there’s also a scientific explanation for this behavior. Alligators typically swallow smaller prey species whole. (Think fish, birds, and small mammals.) But since their teeth are designed to crush and not chew, they must break down and tear apart larger prey (like a python) before eating it. Clutching the dead prey in their jaws and repeatedly slamming it into the ground helps them break it into bite-sized pieces.
Burmese pythons, on the other hand, are fully capable of swallowing large prey whole. A recent study shows how the extra stretchy skin between a python’s jaws allows it to ingest prey that is four to six times larger than what a similarly sized snake could swallow. Pythons can easily swallow large animals such as deer, bobcats, and even alligators. (Their unique ability to wolf down nearly every native species in the Everglades is a big part of why they’re the at the top of Florida’s “least wanted” list.)
In fact, last November, a team of researchers in Florida found an intact, 5-foot alligator inside an 18-foot Burmese python. They were performing a necropsy when they pulled the gator out of the snake’s stomach. Which proves that the cards don’t always fall in the alligator’s favor when the giant reptiles decide to tangle.
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