How Does a Snake Swallow a Crocodile?

Super-sized meals do not frighten snakes.

In fact, they have been known to consume pigs, deer, and dogs, while some rarer treats have included a 14-year-old boy and most recently, a crocodile at Lake Moondarra in Queensland, Australia.

Author Tiffany Corlis was able to capture some of the five-hour ordeal on camera.

The snake, which is thought to have been a 10-foot-long python, constricted the crocodile, before bringing it to shore and swallowing it whole, as a crowd of onlookers watched in awe.  

First, the snake located the head of the crocodile (all snakes eat their prey headfirst, it makes the swallowing of limbs much easier), then began ingesting the reptile with gymnastic flexibility.

“[The crocodile] was fighting at the start, so it was trying to keep its head out of water and survive,” she told ABC North West Queensland Radio on Monday. “Finally, the croc sort of gave in and the snake had uncoiled for a little while and had a brief break and then actually started to consume the crocodile. It was just unbelievable. 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.”

Contrary to common belief, a snake’s jaws do not dislocate when swallowing prey. Unlike a mammalian jaw, a snake’s is fixed with tendons, muscles, and ligaments that give the jaw astounding flexibility.

snake jaws

“One of the enduring myths about snake feeding mechanisms is the idea that the jaws detach,” explained Patrick T. Gregory, a biology professor at the University of Victoria. “In fact, they stay connected all the time. The two mandibles are not joined at the front by a rigid symphysis, as ours are, but by an elastic ligament that allows them to spread apart. The two lower jaws move independently of one another. The quadrate bone is not rigidly attached to the skull, but articulates with the skull at one end and is therefore freely moving.”

Snake expert Associate Professor Bryan Fry, from the University of Queensland’s School of Biological Science, said while water pythons usually targeted smaller animals and rodents, small fresh water crocodiles were easy prey.