This article was originally posted on Outdoor life.
Researchers in the Florida Everglades recently found an intact five-foot-long alligator inside a Burmese python. Geoscientist Rosie Moore shared footage of the discovery on Instagram on Tuesday, and it has since been viewed more than 10 million times.
Moore was working with the scientists when he recorded the footage. He explained in his post that the 18-foot-long Burmese python had been euthanized and taken to the research lab, where they opened up the snake to sample its stomach contents.
“This is called necropsy,” Moore wrote in a later comment. “The scientists will collect weight, length, morphometric data and take the intestinal contents. This helps us learn more about how they affect their ecosystem.”
Such impacts are well known to Florida researchers, who have published several studies showing the damage the massive invasive snakes are doing to the native food web. Since they have no natural predators in the Everglades, pythons are free to prey on everything from birds and raccoons to large reptiles and fully grown deer.
Outdoor life he spoke to python researcher Ian Bartoszek about this very issue in June, and he said people are often surprised when they learn what giant snakes are capable of. Bartoszek pointed to one instance where his team caught a 31½-pound snake that had swallowed a 35-pound deer.
“It was the largest prey-to-python size ratio ever recorded,” Bartoszek said. “This is what we are up against. They don’t just eat rabbits and mice. They might start out that way, but they soon become big game hunters.
And as shocking as Moore’s video may be, it’s hardly the first time a python has eaten an alligator in Florida. Mike Kimmel, better known as the Python Cowboy, commented on the post and said he found several pythons with alligators inside them. Moore also shared a link to a PBS story showing X-ray images of a python digesting a whole alligator over the course of seven days.
A new study led by the University of Cincinnati takes a closer look at how pythons can swallow such large prey items. According to the study, snakes have extra stretchy skin between their jaws, which allows them to ingest prey four to six times larger than what a similarly sized snake could swallow. While extremely rare, pythons are also capable of swallowing humans whole. Just two weeks ago, the body of a 54-year-old Indonesian woman was found inside the stomach of an approximately 22-foot-long reticulated python, a species closely related to Burmese pythons.