A recent field study has provided clinical evidence of a young snake and centipede that ate each other to death, when the juvenile viper tried to swallow its meal alive, and the prey split opened through the former's stomach in order to escape.
The snake (Vipera ammodytes) was found dead with the head of the centipede protruding out from the lower abdomen of the snake, in the Snake Island, located in Macedonia's Lake Prespa, South-east Europe. Even though the snake managed to swallow its prey alive, this proved to be fatal to the nose-horned viper.
The unfortunate nose-horned viper was an infant, female snake and was about 2 inches longer and weight lesser than the centipede.
Nose-horned vipers usually feed on small mammals, lizards, other snakes, amphibians and birds and eat centipede too. But it appeared to the researchers that this particular snake miscalculated the strength of its prey.
The centipede (Scolopendra cingulata) was a Megarian banded that ate the snake's entire internal organ leaving only the skin behind. Researchers noted that killing a Megarian banded centipede is extremely tough and it is most likely that the snake consumed it alive.
"In this case we assume the young snake gravely underestimated the size and strength of the centipede, which itself is known as a ferocious predator. We cannot dismiss the possibility that the snake had swallowed the centipede alive, and that, paradoxically, the prey has eaten its way through the snake, almost reaching its freedom." explained the researchers. The prey constituted 84 percent of the snake's trunk length, 112 percent of its body width and 114 percent of its body weight, said the researchers in the journal Ecologica Montenegrina.
The finding was made by Ljiljana Tomovic, a herpetologist and was reportedly published in March in the journal Ecologica Montenegrina.