A daring snake with a big appetite was recently caught in the act of chowing down on an even larger snake. Video footage showed the ravenous reptile as it swallowed a venomous relative headfirst in a mighty gulp.
The unusual sight was filmed in Haddock, Georgia by 82-year-old Tom Slagle, who was surprised to find the entwined serpents near his mailbox; the gruesome meal was already underway when Slagle began recording it. On June 8, officials with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources shared the video on Facebook, with the caption: "It's a snake eat snake world out there."
In the video, an eastern kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula) can be seen slowly moving its flexible lower jaw down the body of a much girthier timber rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus) — the rattlesnake's head and part of its body have already been swallowed. As the larger snake does not appear to be moving at all, it was likely killed by the kingsnake before being eaten.
It's hard to tell from the video how the snakes compared in terms of their body length, as one is already partly devoured by the other. However, timber rattlesnakes have been known to grow to be 6 feet (1.8 meters) long, while eastern kingsnakes reach a maximum length of just 3.9 feet (1.2 m). The rattlesnake in the video is clearly bulkier than the kingsnake, which suggests it may have been heavier.
Many species of snakes are capable of swallowing prey much larger than themselves, such as deer, cows and even humans. However, this behavior does not typically include bigger snakes because when snakes do eat each other, which is common, it is normally the bigger snakes who eat the smaller ones.
Eastern kingsnakes are one of the few species known to eat larger snakes, but they more commonly feast on lizards, rodents, birds, and freshwater turtle eggs. Kingsnakes are constrictors that hunt by biting their prey near the neck, coiling around the animal's body and squeezing tight. While kingsnakes have no venom of their own, they are immune to the toxins of some of their venomous cousins. This allows them to safely dine on rattlesnakes, copperheads and cottonmouths, according to the University of Georgia.
Both species in the video are commonly found across the eastern United States, however, some populations of eastern kingsnake are decreasing rapidly; they are listed as a protected species in Georgia but not in other states, the University of Georgia reported.
Originally published on Live Science.
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Harry is a U.K.-based staff writer at Live Science. He studied Marine Biology at the University of Exeter (Penryn campus) and after graduating started his own blog site "Marine Madness," which he continues to run with other ocean enthusiasts. He is also interested in evolution, climate change, robots, space exploration, environmental conservation and anything that's been fossilized. When not at work he can be found watching sci-fi films, playing old Pokemon games or running (probably slower than he'd like).