Such highly specialised animals have been crafted through natural selection and are perfectly adapted for their environment. These snakes have amazing anatomy, from belly scales that act like legs to stomach acid that dissolves bone.
Tongue – The forked shape slots perfectly into the Jacobson’s organ in the roof of the mouth. It also means the tongue has a larger surface area, making it even more effective at picking up scents.
Stomach – Digestion causes a 40-fold increase in the python’s metabolism, using 50 per cent of the energy the meal provides. The stomach acid drops from a pH of seven to only 1.5, around the same as hydrochloric acid.
Heart – A python’s heart rate will triple and the size of the heart itself will increase during the first meal after a long fast. This sends a large amount of blood to other organs to help kick-start digestion.
Scales – Not only do they retain water, but scales help the snake to get around. Muscles expand and contract around the belly, causing the wide scales on the underside to push off the ground.
Eye – Snakes have no eyelids and instead have a transparent scale over each eye. When the python is due to shed, its eyes appear to turn a milky colour as the scales detach, but as snake vision is quite poor it doesn’t impede the animal.
Small intestine – During digestion the microvilli in the intestinal wall swell to five times their normal size. This helps the snake absorb every molecule of what it needs, and once the gut is empty it shrinks to wait for the next meal, perhaps weeks down the line.