04 December 2009

A real-life Ouroboros

The photo above shows a king snake that reportedly took its own tail into its mouth and couldn't egest it because the snakes teeth are pointed caudad to prevent prey from escaping. I was skeptical that perhaps this was a sham contrived episode, but it appears to have been real. The incident has has been posted on a variety of news sites and blogs, but curiously I haven't yet seen anyone note that this corresponds precisely with the mythical Ouroboros.

This photo credit to Picture Partnership, via the Telegraph.


  1. I can believe this. A lot of snakes that swallow live prey have teeth which are curved inward to prevent an animal from wriggling back out of the snake's mouth.

    I'm kind of surprised that the snake didn't realize its mistake before it swallowed more than the tip, but I doubt it's a staged shot.

  2. What would worry me would be if someone took the tail of the snake and shoved it into the snake's mouth, but I don't get the sense that that's what happened. These snakes may well prey upon their own species. And perhaps an incident like this is how the legend of the Ouroboros originated.

  3. With snakes, striking at food induces an instinctive response that can induce a trance-like state. If this photo is indeed true, my guess is that this is a captive bred animal that was induced by a prey being offered but missed the target when striking.

    I keep many snakes as pets and once, a snake bit my finger, instead of the thawed mouse. He started ingesting my finger (its referred to as "walking with their teeth"). I was able to get him to release it by putting his face under a running faucet. He had no problem letting go when being "waterboarded".

  4. Snakes can definitely release what they are swallowing (have watched my snakes spit out mice that were mostly down). I really have to wonder what this silly kingsnake was thinking (my snake has accidentally bit his own tail while chasing prey, but he immediately realized his mistake).


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