Can pythons eat crocodiles

panorama : Alligator versus python

The Burmese python thrives in the swamps of Florida. Originally from Myanmar, formerly Burma, the giant snake was introduced to the southern United States. More than 150 specimens, which can be up to ten meters long, are said to live in the Everglades today. Yesterday the Tagesspiegel reported on this page that the pythons are fighting with the native alligators. Readers asked who will win the fight. In the most spectacular case - when in autumn 2005 a four-meter-long python devoured an alligator only half the size - the fight ended to the detriment of both opponents: the alligator died in the snake's stomach. And the python? It burst.

At the time, reptile expert Frank Mazzotti from the University of California was concerned about the population of alligators in Florida: "We were actually hoping that the alligators would keep the pythons in check," he said at the time. In the few other known cases, the alligator won or the fight ended in a draw. Both have advantages. While the alligator can fatally bite, the python can strangle the alligator.

The experts were so preoccupied with the fall of the burst python that a team of specialists traveled to the Everglades on behalf of National Geographic to reconstruct the battle of the reptiles. The researchers also wanted to know whether a python can digest an entire alligator. In the laboratory, they made snakes eat alligator meat. "To our surprise, it only took nine days for it to decompose," said Stephen Secor of the University of Alabama at the time.

Why the famous python from the Everglades burst instead of simply digesting its prey is still unclear today. One theory says that the snake was almost inflated by the gases released during the decomposition and therefore burst. Others believe the alligator was sleeping when it was devoured, then awakened inside the python and thrashed until the snakeskin tore.

The experts of the "National Geographic" expedition are convinced that it was completely different: A third alligator probably took advantage of the predicament in which the python and prey found themselves after the fight. When both of them floated motionless through the water, the alligator bit from the outside. The combination of crocodile and snake was probably not that tasty - at least the unknown third swam away again.

Now new: We give you 4 weeks of Tagesspiegel Plus! To home page