A large centipede that was swallowed by a snake, a nose-horned viper, ate the predator's insides, rupturing its abdomen and killing it before the centipede also died.
Researchers wrote about the epic battle that ended in death for both creatures in the latest edition of the journal Ecologica Montenegrina.
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"All of us were astonished, as nobody has ever seen something like this," Ljiljana Tomović, a herpetologist at the University of Belgrade, told LiveScience.
This was no ordinary centipede. It was a scolopendra cingulate, which was 6 inches long, weighed 4.8 grams, which is more than the snake did, 4.2 grams. The viper was 7.9 inches long.
Researchers said that they discovered the dead centipede protruding from the ruptured stomach of a dead nose-horned viper and subsequently analyzed the remains. The creatures were found at Golem Grad, an island in Lake Prespa in the Republic of Macedonia, on May 13, 2013.
When the scientists dissected the snake, they found that its visceral organs were missing.
"The entire volume of its body was occupied by the centipede," the scientists wrote in the article, leading them to believe that the centipede destroyed the viper's internal organs in its attempt to escape before dying.
"In general, this invertebrate is extremely tough: It is very hard to kill a full-grown Scolopendra (personal observation)," the scientist said. "Therefore, 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."
Nose-horned vipers normally feed on small mammals, lizards, and birds, but "the young snake gravely underestimated the size and strength of the centipede," the scientists said.
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