I’m Beginning To Think That Pythons Are Not Terribly Bright

As a matter of fact I’m beginning to think that they are downright stupid. First, there was the python that ate the alligator, then one ate an electric blanket, a third tried eating a pregnant sheep. Now this…


National Geographic has the video about a snake that ate four golf balls…
Update: Please note that this post has nothing to do with Monty Python. I have nothing against Monty Python, but such comments are irrelevant to this post…

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9 Responses

  1. You’re forgetting this:
    http://youtube.com/watch?v=0qacIuWUMR8

  2. Terry Jones knows an awful lot about medieval history.

  3. I guess with pythons, the survival of their species depends on how fast you can eat something, not how smart it is to do so! LOL!
    Dave Briggs :~)

  4. I was relieved on traversing from title to content. It’s not only that one of them is an expert on medieval history, but also in some strange ways, Monty Python can explain everything!

  5. Snakes eat eggs, many eggs are spherical and light colored.
    Unlike a mobile prey, eggs lack scent, heat, CO2 signatures so it isn’t surprising a golf ball would appear edible.

  6. I wonder if it would distinguish between a pingpong ball and a golf ball.

  7. I couldn’t hear the sound so this might repeat material explained in the video, sorry if so. Many cases are known of pythons eating nest material of rodent prey along with or instead of the rodents themselves (hence blankets etc.), in part because they smell like prey but also because cloth has similar texture to mammal fur; and once the sharp, recurved anterior teeth have snagged on something that feels like prey, the snake proceeds to swallow. Bird eggshell would typically also carry the scent of the laying or brooding bird, but snakes can use shape and colour cues as well: there are also cases known of pythons eating light bulbs (much less dense than golf balls, so ping pong balls may also be tempting), or the porcelain eggs used as ‘decoys’ to encourage hens to lay in nest boxes. When grass, sticks or small stones are swallowed accidentally they are usually passed without difficulty, but mistakes are frequently fatal when artificial materials or artifacts are involved.
    Another way in which pythons seem to have weak discrimination is in mate recognition: in captivity and to some extent in the wild, matings between different species are reasonably common (more than most vertebrates), and hybrids have been reported among species classified in different genera. I suspect that one or more extant species have arisen through hybridisation events, but the molecular data to test this are not yet available.
    @ Dave Briggs: ‘survival of the species’ is an archaic concept these days; selection acts on individuals to affect the survival of genes, and cares little for ‘species’. And pythons specialise not in speed, but volume, either taking large numbers of smallish items (eggs, rodents, bats etc.) or single prey that may be vastly larger than the snake’s head. Then they may take a year or more off feeding, avoiding unnecessary activity that would expose them to accidents and predation, or use the body mass and spare space in the body cavity for breeding effort instead (the gut lining and other organs, including the heart, actually shrink significantly when digestiion finishes, and regrow when needed again). While on that topic, during non-feeding periods some snakes (e.g. Water pythons) are now known to shrink in all dimensions, so they can resorb bone as well as other tissues; this is a complication I’d rather didn’t exist, for my purpose of modelling skeletal ontogeny.
    But yeah, as snakes go, I don’t think pythons are especially bright either.

  8. To be fair, the golf balls were in a hen’s nest as part of an effort to encourage the hen to nest in a designated spot…

  9. We have both pythons and monitor lizards here on the island (Siargao, Philippines) and for a time, I kept a couple of each.
    The monitor lizard – you can see his portrait at
    http://tinyurl.com/23c6qz
    – was quite intelligent – he worked out that a coconut tree to which he was tethered was wider at the base than further up, and climbed right to the top, where he got hopelessly entangled. I had to bribe Mad Uyong to climb up and rescue him.
    He would eat anything, preferably if it was a little ‘ripe’. He choked to death one day trying to swallow an eel.

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