centipede and snake
Centipede eats its way out of snake Ministry of Education, Sciences and Technological Development of Republic of Serbia

A snake who ate a centipede bit off more than it could chew after the centipede fought back – eating its way out of the snake's stomach.

Scientists published their report on the rare event in the journal Ecologica Montenegrina, with a paper titled: 'Two fangs good, a hundred legs better: juvenile viper devoured by an adult centipede it had ingested'.

An image of the snake shows the centipede – a Scolopendra cingulate – bursting out of the snake's stomach. Measurements of the pair side by side show how the centipede is almost as long as the snake, a young female nose-horned viper.

Researchers discovered the two dead creatures on Golem Grad, an island in Lake Prespa in May 2013.

A post-mortem suggests the centipede ate the snake from the inside, rupturing the creature's abdomen.

Scolopendra cingulate
Ferocious predator Scolopendra cingulate Eran Finkle

Findings showed the snake was 7.9 inches long – just two inches longer than its eventual killer. Weight tests showed the centipede was actually heavier. The scientists said the snake "gravely underestimated" its prey.

"The entire volume of its body was occupied by the centipede," the researchers said.

"A subsequent dissection revealed the absence of the snake's visceral organs (i.e. we found that only the snake's body wall remained – the entire volume of its body was occupied by the centipede), which led us to suppose that the prey caused chemical or mechanical damage to the predator's digestive organs.

"Juvenile vipers from Golem Grad have been observed to consume Scolopendra sp., but in this case we assume the young snake gravely underestimated the size and strength of the centipede, which itself is known as a ferocious predator

"In general, this invertebrate is extremely tough: It is very hard to kill a full-grown Scolopendra (personal observation). Therefore, we cannot dismiss the possibility that the snake had swallowed the centipede alive, and that, paradoxically, the prey has eaten its way through the snake, almost reaching its freedom."