Scientists performing research on the Macedonia island of Golem Grad, otherwise known as Snake Island, came across a captivating discovery last year in May when they stumbled upon a young viper with the head and nose of its prey sticking out of its abdomen. Although both animals were dead and it was still a startling find. After not much scrutiny, it was easy to discern that a young nose-horned viper had attacked a giant centipede who then nearly ate its way out of its predator’s stomach.
According to the journal Ecologica Montenegrina, which reported the rare event in an article called Two Fangs Good, A Hundred Legs Better, scientists claim that the two combative victims were attempting to simultaneously devour each other. After dissecting the immature nose-horned viper, they discovered that only the snake’s stomach wall remained; all of its internal, visceral organs had dissolved. It was quickly suspected that as a means of escape the formidable centipede caused some sort of “chemical or mechanical damage” to the reptile’s insides, which attacked and decimated the digestive organs of its captor.
The centipede, a Scolopendra cingulate, was considered to be of adult size, while the snake was a young female, not yet full-grown. Although the snake measured longer than the invertebrate, weight tests showed that the hard-shelled centipede actually outweighed the serpent, even if by only .6 grams.
The researchers remarked that they have previously viewed juvenile vipers eat Scolopendra cingulate, and the centipedes have proven themselves as being very difficult to conquer, but they had never seen one eat its way out of a snake’s stomach before. In this particular case, the scientists assumed the little viper “gravely underestimated” the fortitude of the invertebrate, which is known for being a tough competitor.
As seen above, the multi-limbed creature of nightmares was nearly as long as the serpent, 16 centimeters to the snake’s twenty. When the scientists found the animals, they said the centipede had nearly taken up the entirety of the viper’s volume. They documented that “the prey constituted 84 percent of the predator’s trunk length, 112 percent of its body width, and 114 percent of the snake’s body weight.” Serbian herpetologist Ljiljana Tomovic stated in the journal article that it can be assumed that the snake had swallowed the centipede alive, and, paradoxically, the hundred-legged arthropod began to eat its way out of its stomach cage, nearly escaping until most likely the venom from the viper finally overtook its efforts.
According to the report, adult nose-horned vipers usually feed on small mammals, birds, lizards, or other snakes, but a shift has taken place recently and young have begun feeding predominantly on lizards and this particular type of centipede. The report also states that it is not unknown for a variety of animal species to indulge in potentially dangerous prey, and different species of snakes have been known to be killed by their prey before. However, it has also been documented that certain predatory animals have learned how to steer clear of a deathly dinner. Perhaps some other young snake-lings witnessed the unfortunate demise of their cohort’s stomach being eaten from the inside out by a ruthless centipede and will gain a bit of forethought from the rare learning experience.
By Stacy Feder