A viral photo, most likely from Southeast Asia, shows a rarely seen encounte between two scaly titans ended in a draw, leaving behind a twisted, ɢʀɪsʟʏ scene.
One of the combatants, a king cobra, lay sᴛʀᴀɴɢʟᴇᴅ. The second, a reticulated python, was also ᴅᴇᴀᴅ. Bɪᴛᴛᴇɴ behind its head by the cobra and suffering from the hooded snake’s ᴅᴇᴀᴅly ᴠᴇɴᴏᴍ, the python attempted to defend its ʟɪꜰᴇ by sǫᴜᴇᴇᴢɪɴɢ its ᴀᴛᴛᴀᴄᴋᴇʀ to ᴅᴇᴀᴛʜ. It succeeded. But neither sᴜʀᴠɪᴠᴇᴅ.
“It’s crazy, but it’s something I could easily see happening…it’s a ᴅᴀɴɢᴇʀᴏᴜs world out there, to ᴇᴀᴛ other big snakes and things that could ᴋɪʟʟ you,” says Coleman Sheehy of the Florida Museum of Natural History, who says the ᴅᴇᴀᴅly clash likely occurred somewhere in Southeast Asia, where the two snake species overlap.
Remnants of the Bᴀᴛᴛʟᴇ between the two snakes were captured and posted on Facebook. The photo caught the attention of herpetologists and many others marveling at the unusual sight.
“It looks real, it doesn’t look photoshopped or anything,” says Frank Burbrink of the American Museum of Natural History. “This is a weird encounter, but a lot of stuff that happens with snakes is never easily seen.”
King cobras are the longest ᴠᴇɴᴏᴍous snakes in the world, with some spanning 18 feet. The king cobra’s diet consists primarily of other snakes and lizards, including Indian cobra, banded krait, rat snake, pythons, green whip snake, keelback, banded wolf snake and Blyth’s reticulated snake. When these cobras ᴀᴛᴛᴀᴄᴋ, they target the base of their ᴠɪᴄᴛɪᴍs’ heads, then ᴋɪʟʟ by injecting a ᴠᴇɴᴏᴍous ᴄᴏᴄᴋᴛᴀɪʟ that quickly shuts down nervous systems and ᴘᴀʀᴀʟʏᴢᴇs their ᴘʀᴇʏ.
Reticulated pythons, on the other hand, are the longest snakes in the world, with some being more than 30 feet long. They use their muscles to sᴛʀᴀɴɢʟᴇ meals, which normally comprise mammals—not other snakes.
Unfortunately for this particular King Cobra, it would be meal ended up ꜰɪɢʜᴛɪɴɢ back. The Python constricted its ᴀᴛᴛᴀᴄᴋer, slowly sᴜꜰꜰᴏᴄᴀᴛɪɴɢ the Cobra to ᴅᴇᴀᴛʜ. Before the Cobra succumbed to the Python’s coils, it managed to inject a Fᴀᴛᴀʟ dose of its ᴠᴇɴᴏᴍ into the Python’s neck. Thus the warring snakes ended up ᴋɪʟʟɪɴɢ each other.