Warning: This video might haunt your dreams. The viral clip—which surfaced back in 2015 and has since amassed more than 8 million views on Youtube—shows an Indian python wrapping up a live sambar deer before unhinging its massive jaws and swallowing the poor critter whole.
The 14-and-a-half-minute nightmare was filmed in a Sri Lanken national park and posted by a Youtuber called WildWatcher60. It starts out with the python coiling its muscular body around the panting deer’s neck. After the deer dies, the reptile clamps down on the deceased animal’s snout and send it down the hatch—one inch at a time.
While a sambar deer might seem like an unlikely target for a snake, it’s actually quite common for pythons to prey on cervids. They’re some of the largest snakes in the world, sometimes reaching weights of 200 pounds or more and growing to nearly 20 feet long.
But it isn’t size alone that makes the python a top predator. According to a recent study conducted at the University of Cincinnati (UC), pythons have evolved a unique type of elastic skin between their lower jaws that allows them to swallow prey up to six times larger than the prey that’s typically consumed by similarly-sized snakes.
“The stretchy skin between left and right lower jaws is radically different in pythons. Just over 40% of their total gape area on average is from stretchy skin,” said UC College of Arts and Sciences professor and lead author on the study Bruce Jayne. “Even after you correct for their large heads, their gape is enormous.”
The python in this video appears to be feeding in its native range. In parts of south Florida, where invasive Burmese pythons were unleashed several decades ago, whitetail deer populations have plummeted. In 2018, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida documented a python gulping down a whitetail that’s believed to be the “largest predator/prey ratio ever documented for the Burmese python”, and possibly for “any other species of python.”
The Burmese python’s incredible ability to take down and consume and live deer is bad news for south Florida’s ecosystem, but it does make for good entertainment. Here are three more videos of pythons eating deer for your viewing pleasure.