Dramatic video (that's not for the weak of stomach) shows a large python swallowing and throwing up an antelope in a town in India.
The footage was reportedly made Monday in Gorakhpur in northern India, according to the Caters news service. A crowd of onlookers can be seen and heard in the video, with some poking the antelope with a stick.
The onlookers seemed to crowd and stress out the snake, says Kenney Krysko, a herpetologist and collection manager at the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainsville.
"It's sad because the antelope was wasted," Krysko says. "It will be left to decay and be eaten by flies."
There's "no chance" the snake would come back to finish its meal even if it was left alone by people, Krysko says. "That thing is partially digested and probably stinks already."
The snake will have to catch another meal, Krysko notes. (Learn about the colossal snake that died under mysterious circumstances.)
Cold-blooded animals with slow metabolisms, snakes typically eat infrequently, often just a few times a year (especially when they take such large prey, which takes a long time for them to break down). Snakes are known to even go more than a year between meals.
The reason the snake regurgitated? It was most likely a defensive response, Krysko says. All the people probably stressed it out, so it threw up its massive meal in order to lighten its load and better escape. The same behavior is seen by other snakes, as well as birds and other animals.
"Anyone who keeps snakes knows you should leave them alone after they eat, because you can make them regurgitate," Krysko adds.
The snake is indeed a species of python, possibly a Burmese python, Krysko adds. It appears to be roughly 12 feet (3.6 meters) long, though that species can reach a length up to 23 feet (7 meters). Burmese pythons can weigh up to 200 pounds (90 kilograms), with a girth as big as a telephone pole. (See the python that burst after eating a croc.)
It's too hard to identify the partially digested antelope, though it is likely one of several species found in India. Pythons catch such prey by waiting in ambush and then wrestling and constricting them, Krysko says. They coil their bodies around their prey and squeeze it until it suffocates. Then they swallow it hole, opening their mouths wide thanks to stretchy ligaments. The snakes often hunt in tall grass near water holes or burrows.
Such snakes play important roles in their ecosystems and are rarely a danger to people, though they are often harassed or killed out of fear. The big snakes have been in decline in much of their range. (Though they have become unwelcome invaders in Florida.)
Burmese pythons are popular in the pet trade and are native to the jungles and grassy marshes of India and Southeast Asia. They eat mostly small mammals and birds, though they occasionally take larger prey like antelopes. They have poor eyesight, and stalk prey using chemical receptors in their tongues and heat-sensors along their jaws.