An unusual clash between a 6-foot (1.8m) alligator and a 13-foot (3.9m) python has left two of the deadliest predators dead in Florida's swamps.
The Burmese python tried to swallow its fearsome rival whole but then exploded.
The remains of the two giant reptiles were found by astonished rangers in the Everglades National Park.
The rangers say the find suggests that non-native Burmese pythons might even challenge alligators' leading position in the food chain in the swamps.
The python's remains with the victim's tail protruding from its burst midsection were found last week. The head of the python was missing.
"Encounters like that are almost never seen in the wild... And here we are," Frank Mazzotti, a University of Florida wildlife professor, was quoted as saying by the Associated Press news agency.
"They were probably evenly matched in size. If the python got a good grip on the alligator before the alligator got a good grip on him, he could win," Professor Mazzotti said, reports BBC.
According to SF Gate, the python was found with the gator's hindquarters protruding from its midsection. Its stomach still surrounded the alligator's head, shoulders, and forelimbs. The remains were discovered and photographed Sept. 26 by helicopter pilot and wildlife researcher Michael Barron.
The incident has alerted biologists to new potential dangers from Burmese pythons in the Everglades.
"Clearly, if they can kill an alligator they can kill other species," Mazzotti said. "There had been some hope that alligators can control Burmese pythons. ... This indicates to me it's going to be an even draw. Sometimes alligators are going to win and sometimes the python will win.
"It means nothing in the Everglades is safe from pythons, a top down predator," Mazzotti said.
Photo: Everglades National Park P.T.