While the reticulated python is the longest snake in the world, the king cobra is the longest venomous one; both are native to southeast Asia.
A photo that was circulated on Reddit and went viral has once again highlighted the brutal nature of life in the wild.
It shows a king cobra and a reticulated python entangled in what seems like a battle that ended in defeat on either side.
A photo that circulated around Reddit shows the game of death between a king cobra and a python.
While the reticulated python is the longest snake in the world, the king cobra is the longest venomous one; both are native to southeast Asia
The photo hints at the violent struggle that must have taken place before the two reptiles ended up in the fatal embrace.
At first glance, it’s hard to tell where the king cobra starts and the python ends.
But on closer inspection, one can see that the cobra’s jaws are pressing down onto the neck of the python, while the python’s diamond crested body is tightly wrapped around its adversary. The cobra’s limp body is seen extending away from the knot that binds the two.
The reticulated python is the longest and heaviest snake on the Earth, stretching 7 meters in length and weighing 75 kilos. The python also wields a considerable amount of strength that can crush the bones of an animal in an instant.
The king cobra, on the other hand, usually measures up to 5.5 meters long and weighs 9 kilos. A king cobra’s bite can render an Asian Elephant unconscious and can kill it, given the number of neurotoxins that are packed into it. But when the python and the king cobra encountered one another, neither of them could survive the damage they inflicted on each other.
“It’s crazy, but it’s something I could easily see happening…it’s a dangerous world out there, to eat other big snakes and things that could kill you,” says Coleman Sheehy of the Florida Museum of Natural History, who says the lethal battle likely occurred somewhere in Southeast Asia, where the two snake species overlap.
At some point during their struggle, the king cobra struck the python with its venomous jaws. Yet something as deadly as that couldn’t bring the python down in an instant as it was found relentlessly holding on, squeezing the juices out of the cobra, as it remained coiled around the king’s body!
While the python suffered at the hands of the cobra’s poison, the cobra was choked to death.
“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 a species under the genus Ophiophagus, suggesting that they eat other snakes for a living. When cobras plan on an attack, they target the head of its victim before injecting onto them a bite packed with life-threatening venom. This bite can quickly shut down the functioning of the prey’s body and render them paralyzed.
“They can pretty much tackle most snakes they come across,” Sheehy says.
Reticulated pythons, on the other hand, use their powerful muscles to strangle their prey. These usually involve mammals which states that pythons don’t go around hunting other snakes.
“If there was a predatory event here, it was king cobra to python,” Burbrink says. “And it didn’t work out for either of them.”
It’s not clear as to what exactly happened between the two. But it seems as though the cobra must have attacked the python with hopes of enjoying a hearty meal, but it seems the python was an equal match for the king.
The python may have tried to escape its venomous foe but its slow-moving body may have failed to outrun the much speedier cobra.
It seems that even after it was bitten, the python didn’t give up without a fight and its grip was strong enough to choke the life out of the cobra.
It’s still not clear as to whether or not this event was one that was natural.
“We know cobras will eat other snakes, but you never know if people are doing goofy stuff to set things up,” Burbrink says.
“People keep king cobras, and—hey let’s see what happens when you put these guys in a little ditch. You can see there’s a berm on both sides [in the photo] and they might’ve gone at it, but it could have happened in the wild as well. I wish I were there to have seen it.”
How long the two snakes struggled in a battle between life and death is not clear. It may depend on the potency of the venom injected by the cobra, which is not easy to guess from a photograph.
But it would have taken 30 minutes for the venom to seep itself into the blood of the python before its body finally gave out.
However, it was an epic battle where neither survived, leaving us in awe and wonder at the terrifying power of these two reptiles.