Worst heartburn ever

June 27, 2015 • 9:00 am

There is a moral to this story, and the moral is this: don’t swallow porcupines whole. You probably think in retrospective, well duh. But there’s a python in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa who must have wished he’d thought about his lunch a bit more before he went for it.

Gizmodo  reports on the hapless herp who was found dead a week later, poor thing.

The autopsy proved that it was his Last Supper that killed him when the quills pierced the digestive tract.

There’s more detail and photos on LiveScience here.

28 thoughts on “Worst heartburn ever

    1. That’s hate speech!

      (I like pythons and have nothing against rodents either; what’s your beef?)

  1. The quills of a North American porcupine can damage car tires, and Cape porcupines are larger animals, with moar srs bizness quills. No wonder the python died after its unfortunate dinner choice. :-0

  2. I’ve heard or read this story a couple of days back. It said that it’s not even unheard of for a python to swallow and digest a whole porcupine (I’m sure some reader can confirm or falsify this) and usually it’s not a problem either. The snake obviously swallows the porcupine with the spines pointing back. But in this case, some hiker saw the snake doing it, reported it, and that alerted countless curious people to hike there too, to watch and photograph the snake resting and digesting. Disturbed and to be able to escape the snake tried to vomit out (sorry, I don’t know the proper English term) the porcupine, thus skewering itself.

    Now, I don’t know if this was just speculation but it seems to make sense. Maybe threes some snake expert who knows about this …

    1. > vomit out (sorry, I don’t know the proper English term) the porcupine

      Regurgitate ?

      (non-native speaker here)

    2. You can swallow a porcupine (very carefully) with very little resistance if all the spines are smoothed down and pointing posteriorly. Subsequently attempting to regurgitate it inevitable causes the spines to catch on the oesophageal lining and open up like an umbrella. It’s very plausible that that’s what happened here.
      It’s also possible that it was murder. “But there’s no word yet on whether this particular snake died because it was pierced by quills or because it fell off a ledge (or because it was pierced by quills as a result of falling off the ledge)” – Did it fall or was it pushed? Sounds like a lot of people went to look; what are the odds that they could all be trusted with an animal’s life?

  3. Are porcupines native to the tropics? I’ve heard of them living in the US and Canada. The python is a tropical animal, clearly, so I think this would not happen in a natural setting. If it was a common occurrence, you’d think the python would have evolved an aversion to these dangerous critters.

    1. Old World porcupines (genus Hystrix) are found across most of Africa and tropical Asia. I’m not sure if they’re closely related to New World porcupines, or whether the quills are an example of convergent evolution. No doubt the molecular biologists will tell us in due course if they haven’t already figured it out.

      1. They used to be common in the arid Middle East, but not anymore.
        When I was a child, it was not unusual to find spikes in Israel even in urban gardens, but now they are endangered and it’s hard to find them in the wild due to illegal hunting.

  4. Some years ago my dog learned that curiosity can get you a face full of porcupine quills. I spent a good two hours with needle nose pliers pulling them out of his face. He learned to steer clear of them, just wish he would have learned that lesson with skunks.

    1. They seem completely incapable of remembering what the last skunk did to them or else they don’t relate the smell to the skunk. My Chesapeake was sprayed by a skunk on three different occasions in three different places. It was most foul taking care of her, but of course I had to. I gave her several long lectures in a stern but reasonable voice, but no matter how carefully she looks at me while I talk I doubt she truly understands my language unless I suggest a walk or a treat or a ride in the car.

      1. Maybe the smell’s so shocking it induces retrograde amnesia? That presumably wouldn’t be adaptive for the skunk genes, but might be entertaining for individual skunks.

  5. Dear Natural Selection:

    It only works if they stop predators from eating me BEFORE they eat me.

    Try harder next time, mmkay?

    The lunch

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