Close-up of an African rock python swallowing a large prey. Photo: MalaMala Game Reserve.
During an attack, the python’s mouth will expand up to 180 degrees, allowing it to bite the prey tightly. Then, it quickly uses its body to suffocate the victim to death.
Finally, comes the process of swallowing the prey. To fully digest the large prey, the python’s stomach plays a crucial role, containing pure hydrochloric acid. To compare, the human stomach has a pH of 4 or 5, while the python’s pH is 1.
The strong acid not only kills the prey by dissolving it but also protects the python. After eating a huge meal, the python must race to digest its food completely before starting to defecate. If the prey is defecated before being digested, toxic gases can accumulate in the digestive tract and kill the predator.
Pythons usually find a place to hide and digest their food. If the meal is too large, it may take several months before the python feels hungry again and resumes hunting.
However, immediately after such a hearty meal, African rock pythons face some difficulties in moving. After a large meal, their bodies swell, making them sluggish. During this time, they are very vulnerable to attack, and in such cases, they will regurgitate all the food in their bodies to escape more easily.