Saturday, February 07, 2009
An unusual clash between a 6-foot (1.8m) alligator and a 13-foot (3.9m) python has left two of the deadliest predators dead in Florida's swamps.
The Burmese python tried to swallow its fearsome rival whole but then exploded.
The remains of the two giant reptiles were found by astonished rangers in the Everglades National Park.
The rangers say the find suggests that non-native Burmese pythons might even challenge alligators' leading position in the food chain in the swamps.
Clearly, if they can kill an alligator they can kill other species
Prof Frank Mazzotti
The python's remains were found with the victim's tail protruding from its burst midsection. The head of the python was missing.
"Encounters like that are almost never seen in the wild... And here we are," Frank Mazzotti, a University of Florida wildlife professor, was quoted as saying by the Associated Press news agency.
"They were probably evenly matched in size. If the python got a good grip on the alligator before the alligator got a good grip on him, he could win," Professor Mazzotti said.
He said the alligator may have clawed at the python's stomach, leading it to burst.
"Clearly, if they can kill an alligator they can kill other species," Prof Mazzotti said.
He said that there had been four known encounters between the two species in the past. In the other cases, the alligator won or the battle was an apparent draw.
Burmese pythons - many of whom have been dumped by their owners - have thrived in the wet and hot climate of Florida's swamps over the past 20 years.