Did This Eastern Brown Snake Die Eating the Red-Bellied Black Snake?

November 3, 2015

The image is telling. Or not. The photo was apparently taken in Australia and shows a brown snake (Pseudonaja sp.) attempting to eat a red-bellied black snake (Pseudechis porphyriacus). Both snakes were dead when the photo was taken. Both species are native to Australia and both are venomous. What is interesting in the photograph, taken by Geoff Mitchell and posted to his Facebook page, is that the red-bellied black snake appears to have broken through the skin of the brown snake in what looks like an attempt to get free of the predator. But is it? Both species are known to eat each other. 

eastern brown snake eats red-bellied black snake

Geoff Mitchell

What happened here?

Mitchell told 3AW radio that he saw the snakes on the side of the road and took a picture, seemingly dumbfounded in what appears to be predation gone awry. 

"I've thought about it quite a lot, I had to research it. It seems quite common for brown snakes to eat black snakes but I have seen none where one snake has punched a hole through another."

The photo was sent to the Queensland’s Australian Zoo and here is its response:

"Wow! This is certainly unusual and we have not seen this before. We can't imagine a black snake climbing into another snake but this entire situation is very strange. We would still suggest that the brown one was eating the black, but we will never know for sure," the zoo replied.

So snake sleuths. What can you make of this photo? Were the snakes run over during the course of a predator/prey event? Did the red-bellied black snake punch a hole through the brown snake to escape? What do you make of this image?

John Virata keeps a western hognose snake, a ball python, two corn snakes, a king snake, and two leopard geckos. His first snake, a California kingsnake, was purchased for $5. His first pet reptile was a green anole that arrived in a small box via mail order. Follow him on Twitter @johnvirata 


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