Watch: Battle Between Geckos and a Snake Ends in a Twist
When 31-year-old Sawet Numpet was walking through the woods behind the factory at which he works in Thailand, he noticed two tokay geckos honing in on a tree snake.
He approached the trio, filming on his phone, and noticed a gecko-shaped object protruding from inside the belly of the snake.
Speaking to local press, Numpet described the event, saying he and his friends were so captivated they watched for a while. The geckos continued to approach the snake; one approached it from a tree branch, while the other crawled down a column. Seemingly cornered, the snake backed away, and Numpet, who felt moved to provoke the fight, poked the snake with a stick.
Almost instantly, the snake regurgitated a third gecko that popped out bright red.
Max Nickerson, a curator in the Division of Herpetology at the Florida Museum of Natural History, wasn't surprised to see the snake give up its meal so quickly.
"When they swallow something relatively large, it can make them less mobile, so when they're harassed, it's common for them to regurgitate the meal," he explained.
Even though snakes have teeth for grasping prey, they don't chew their meals. Instead, once prey has been swallowed, digestive aids inside the snake's stomach break down protein, meaning snakes require long periods of time to fully consume a meal.
Snakes have been caught regurgitating meals much bigger than geckos on camera. In India, a python was filmed regurgitating a large, adult antelope, and in Texas, a black snake was filmed regurgitating another sizeable snake.
Nickerson says the two geckos that were approaching the snake may have been acting more out of aggression than altruism for their swallowed brethren.
"I haven't observed them doing that," he said, "but if there's one gecko that would do it, it's a tokay."
Tokay geckos have a reputation for making their territory known. In Florida, where tokays have become an established species after they were introduced in the early 1960s, the reptiles have earned a reputation for the ability to deliver nasty bites. (Tokay geckos are also caught and used in traditional medicines. Read more about the legal trade.)
Nickerson noted that the geckos in the video seem to be males, meaning they're even more territorial and willing to fight invaders.
As to why the gecko popped out bright red? Nickerson explained it's likely just a juvenile, which can appear orange-red in color, and not a result of being trapped inside a snake.