Epic battle between snake and crocodile at Lake Moondarra

Posted at 10:04 PM, Mar 04, 2014
and last updated 2014-03-04 22:04:52-05

 (CNN) -- Here's something interesting and a bit gross I learned today: When eating a crocodile, pythons begin with the head and work their way down to its tail.

It's not the sort of information one comes across just randomly skipping around the Internet. No, this particular bit of trivia was acquired after hearing about -- and seeing pictures of -- one of the more spectacular and mind-bending animal attacks that nature can conjure up.

A 10-foot olive python engaged in an epic, five-hour battle with a freshwater Johnston's crocodile Sunday in Australia's Lake Moondarra. The fact the attack occurred at all is rare enough, according to a local snake expert who spoke with the Brisbane Times.

But photos of this brutal endurance kill (and meal) were snapped by a woman who witnessed it, and that is -- very literally -- something you don't see every day.

Tiffany Corlis told ABC North West Queensland radio that the crocodile "was fighting at the start, so it was trying to keep its head out of water and survive." However, "as the morning sort of progressed, you could tell that both of them were getting a little weaker."

The crocodile more than the python, apparently, which had wrapped itself around its large prey, squeezing tighter with every breath the croc released.

"Finally, the croc sort of gave in and the snake had uncoiled for a little while and had a brief break," Corlis explained. Sounds intense, but then she delivered the kicker: "And then" -- wait for it -- "actually started to consume the crocodile."

CONSUME THE CROCODILE! A snake! You have seen what crocodiles look like, right?! Note to self: Stay so, so far away from pythons forever.

'It was just unbelievable'

This of course brings us to the "pythons begin with the head" note. Slowly, the snake employed its flexible jaws around the rest of its victim, whose lifeless body it had dragged onto the marshy shore.

Corlis stayed and watched the whole thing, of course. How could anyone possibly look away at this point? "It was just unbelievable," she said. "We were sort of thinking that the snake had bitten off a little more than it could chew. But it did. It actually ate the crocodile."

With the entire crocodile now jammed tight inside of it, the python basically looked like a crocodile covered in snakeskin, as it took the shape of its victim.

"When you actually looked at the snake, you could actually see the crocodile's ridges, legs and everything inside its belly," Corlis described.

The python makes room for its meal by enlarging its organs three to four times their normal size and spiking enzyme production to help break it down.

"All the bones, flesh and organs are digested and used" by the snake, reptile curator Terry Phillip told National Geographic.

But not everything is absorbed, according to snake expert Bryan Fry. He told the BBC that "in three weeks it will defecate a calcium ball, having absorbed the fat and protein, but not the excess minerals."

So, it starts with the head -- and now we know exactly how it ends.

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