Photo in the News: Python Eats Pregnant Sheep

Python swallows ewe photo
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September 15, 2006—A fresh lamb dinner might sound like a manageable meal for an 18-foot-long (5.5-meter-long) python. But maybe the hungry snake should have waited for the lamb to be born.

Last week firefighters in the Malaysian village of Kampung Jabor were called in to remove the bloated snake (pictured) from a roadway. The reptile had swallowed an entire pregnant sheep and was too full to slither away and digest its supersize meal.

But the stress of being captured likely triggered the python to purge—it eventually regurgitated the dead ewe.

Pythons are constrictors, meaning they rely on strength, not venom, to kill their prey. About once a week the large snakes ambush a likely meal, grab hold with backward-curving teeth, and wrap around the victim, suffocating it to death. Pythons then open their hinged jaws wide to swallow their prey whole.

Sometimes, though, it seems like the voracious reptiles don't think before they snack. This particular snake isn't the first python to get a tough lesson in the dangers of swallowing oversize prey.

In July a pet Burmese python in Idaho required life-saving surgery to remove a queen-size electric blanket from its digestive tract (see photo). And last October a python in the Florida Everglades apparently busted a gut when it tried to make a meal of a 6-foot-long (2-meter-long) American alligator (see photo).

—Victoria Gilman

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