An African rock python swallows an impala whole, hooves and all, in terrifying footage shared to YouTube. We can see the incredible stretching powers of the python’s jaw in the video, which, according to popular perception, does not dislocate to suit its prey but instead relies on flexible ligaments to go all-in on some very hard to swallow food.
An African rock python captures its victim with its teeth first, then wraps its body around it and squeezes it hard. Every breath the victim exhales is an opportunity for the muscular noodles to tighten, allowing them to squeeze the life – or consciousness – out of even big animals. The situation only gets worse from there. Constrictors like the rock python will spend some time hunting for the best starting position before starting their diet.
Only then will they begin the torturous task of devouring their prey, always beginning with the head – a logical move given the friction encountered when swallowing a chicken backwards, with its many feathers rubbing against the esophagus in the same way that an arrow’s stubborn prongs make it difficult to pull out. The snake “walks” down its body, moving the left and right half of its jaws like cursed little feet inside a fanged oven mitt, mouth agape, and the impala. The arrow analogy comes in help once more here, since the snakes’ rear-facing teeth ensure that the only way to the impala’s feet and the conclusion of the meal is forward.
The poor victim’s existence ends at the stomach, when powerful hydrochloric acid and enzymes begin to break it down if it is not already dead from asphyxiation. Being a sentient, muscular sausage with the weight of a whole impala in your stomach is not the most comfortable living – and, as it turns out, it is not the most safe. The impala, now dead inside the snake, will begin to putrefy, as dead things do. A smorgasbord of unappealing poisonous fumes accompanies this.
The snake can die from the gassy environment that forms in its gut if its meal sits undigested for too long. So, why take on such a risky and ambitious bite of food? If the snake survives the ingestion and digestion of such a large animal, it will nourish for several months, letting it to avoid the energy-intensive process of hunting for a long period. Consider it the next time you wrap your jaws around an XL pizza and lie down, dough-filled and regretful. You are not greedy; you are merely making plans for the future.