CLOSE

This is What Happens When a Python Tries to Eat a Porcupine

Jean-Claude Chanu was biking through South Africa’s Lake Eland Game Reserve on June 16 when he came across an unforgettable sight: A nearly 13-foot-long African Rock Python, its body swollen by whatever it had just eaten. “Seeing a snake of that size up close, eating whatever it was eating, was surreal,” he said. “I’ve never seen anything like that.” When snakes find large enough prey, they can survive for months without eating again; officials at the game reserve wrote on their Facebook page that the animal “must have swallowed a small warthog or an impala calf!”  

But this meal, the snake's last, was not something as mundane as an impala. After the snake was found dead on June 21, an autopsy revealed that it had attempted to eat a 30-pound porcupine. The animal’s quills were lodged in the snake’s digestive tract. 

Python sebae is Africa’s largest snake. The animals can grow to be 20 feet long, and they're exceptionally aggressive. Kenneth Krysko, senior herpetologist at the Florida Museum of Natural History, told National Geographic in 2009 that the snakes “come out of the egg striking.” The species has even been known to kill people: One rock python strangled two sleeping boys in Canada in 2013, and there are verified reports of the animals killing people in the wild.

This isn’t the first time a species of python has died after biting off more than it could swallow: A Burmese python in the Everglades burst after attempting to eat an alligator.

Original image
iStock
arrow
technology
This High-Tech Material Can Change Shape Like an Octopus
Original image
iStock

Octopuses can do some pretty amazing things with their skin, like “see” light, resist the pull of their own sticky suction cups, and blend in seamlessly with their surroundings. That last part now has the U.S. Army interested, as Co.Design reports. The military branch’s research office has funded the development a new type of morphing material that works like an octopus’s dynamic skin.

The skin of an octopus is covered in small, muscular bumps called papillae that allow them to change textures in a fraction of a second. Using this mechanism, octopuses can mimic coral, rocks, and even other animals. The new government-funded research—conducted by scientists at Cornell University—produced a device that works using a similar principle.

“Technologies that use stretchable materials are increasingly important, yet we are unable to control how they stretch with much more sophistication than inflating balloons,” the scientists write in their study, recently published in the journal Science. “Nature, however, demonstrates remarkable control of stretchable surfaces.”

The membrane of the stretchy, silicone material lays flat most of the time, but when it’s inflated with air, it can morph to form almost any 3D shape. So far, the technology has been used to imitate rocks and plants.

You can see the synthetic skin transform from a two-dimensional pad to 3D models of objects in the video below:

It’s easy to see how this feature could be used in military gear. A soldier’s suit made from material like this could theoretically provide custom camouflage for any environment in an instant. Like a lot of military technology, it could also be useful in civilian life down the road. Co.Design writer Jesus Diaz brings up examples like buttons that appear on a car's dashboard only when you need them, or a mixing bowl that rises from the surface of the kitchen counter while you're cooking.

Even if we can mimic the camouflage capabilities of cephalopods, though, other impressive superpowers, like controlling thousands of powerful suction cups or squeezing through spaces the size of a cherry tomato, are still the sole domain of the octopus. For now.

[h/t Co.Design]

Original image
iStock
arrow
Animals
25 Benefits of Adopting a Rescue Dog
Original image
iStock

According to the ASPCA, 3.3 million dogs enter shelters each year in the United States. Although that number has gone down since 2011 (from 3.9 million) there are still millions of dogs waiting in shelters for a forever home. October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month; here are 25 benefits of adopting a shelter dog.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER