Pythons are known for their enormous appetites. In a single meal, they can devour animals at least as big as they are — deer, alligators, pigs, and household pets.
Equally remarkable is what happens inside the python as it digests its prey. Within a day, its internal organs can double in size. Metabolic rate and production of insulin and lipids soar.
Then, like an accordion, the python’s organs return to normal size in just a few days. Metabolism slows. Then the snake can fast for months, even a year, without losing muscle mass or showing any ill effects, ready to ambush new prey.
How this process happens so rapidly is a biological mystery with important implications for human health
On June 14, a cyclist riding along one of the mountain bike trails at the Lake Eland Game Reserve in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, spotted a very engorged snake. The cyclist snapped a few photos of the gluttonous python and posted them to social media, where they quickly attracted the attention of locals who wanted to see the python themselves.
Lots of people came to the park in the following days just to view the swollen snake, according to Jennifer Fuller, general manager at the game reserve.
At the time the photos were taken, no one knew what the snake had eaten, just that it must have been something fairly large. On the Lake Eland Game Reserve Facebook page, park staff and visitors speculated as to what the snake may have swallowed for dinner, suggesting everything from a small warthog to a baby impala to a crocodile.