Pythons and alligators are apex predators who live in the same area, which means they are on each other’s menu. The most enormous python ever caught was 19 feet long, while the largest alligators are up to 14 feet, but both are powerful opponents. Plus, both species have hinged jaws. Python versus an alligator, who wins?
An Alligators ability to snap their jaw shut with incredible force of 2,980 psi gives it an advantage in any battle against a python. Even though pythons are highly efficient killers that can kill and swallow smaller alligators whole, an adult alligator will win a fight due to their size and strength.
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Who would win in a fight to the death between python or alligator is anyone’s guess. Both species have successfully killed and eaten each other in the past. It’s all about who is bigger, who is faster, and who moves first.
Alligators’ ability to snap their jaw shut with incredible force gives it an advantage in any battle where it can bite. In fact, the ventral pterygoideus or jaw-closing muscle is so big it gives them a distinct ‘fat’ necked appearance.
Alternately, pythons are all muscle from head to toe, and they can open their hinged jaws a little wider, which leaves a lot of room to eat alligators.
Can A Python Kill An Alligator
A python can kill an alligator. Pythons are highly efficient killers. While these massive snakes don’t generally kill anything they wouldn’t eat, they will react if attacked.
There is a persistent myth that pythons and anaconda crush their prey before swallowing it, but this isn’t true.
As Oddly Cute Pets points out, “Boa constrictors are large and powerful snakes, but they rarely cause severe harm to people. Depending on the size of the boa, it squeezes with 6-12 lbs of pressure per inch.”
Boa constrictors are among the most muscular snakes on earth, though pythons come relatively close to that.
Snakes have incredible and complex muscle systems. An average snake has around twenty-five muscles on each side of its body at each vertebra, plus those in its head and jaw.
That’s a lot of strength, but most of it is designed for movement.
However, a python can swallow a smaller alligator and digest it. Instead of squeezing it to death as the popular rumor would have you believe, pythons kill alligators by eating them.
It’s a dangerous meal, but an alligator puts all its power into moving forward and closing its jaw. Once the python swallows, pinning the jaw together, the alligator’s mouth isn’t opening again.
Plus, there’s nowhere to go but forward, into the deadly stomach acid where there is no air to breathe.
Can A Python Eat An Alligator
A python can eat an alligator whole. To give some perspective, a python over eight feet long can open its mouth wide enough to eat an average adult human.
Average for Americans is roughly 5 foot 9, 197.9 pounds with a waist just over forty inches around.
Male alligators are up to 11.2 feet (3.4 meters) and can weigh as much as a thousand pounds, while the slightly smaller females are around 8.2 feet (2.6 meters).
That’s easily twice the size of a human or more, but you have to remember that pythons can get up to nineteen feet long, not just the mere eight or nine they’d need to swallow you or me whole.
Do Alligators Eat Pythons
Alligators do eat pythons. Since they are opportunistic hunters and feeders, alligators eat pretty much any source of meat they can kill.
This diet includes fish, turtles, amphibians, birds, mammals, house pets, and even people and snakes.
Alligators have three main killing techniques for their prey. First, they bite down.
According to Animals Mom, “…exerting an average of 2,980 psi and ranked fifth overall in terms of bite strength among the species tested. In comparison, animals such as hyenas, lions, and tigers bite with a force of around 1,000 psi.”
That is more than enough to kill most things.
For anything dangerous or difficult to kill, an alligator uses its other two tricks, which both involve the water. The easiest is to grab an animal and drag it under to drown.
Unfortunately for the alligator, this won’t work as well on a python. Pythons are superb swimmers who can hold their breath for up to thirty minutes.
The final trick is called the death roll. For this type of kill, an alligator grabs its prey and rolls over and over with it. Doing this will quickly dismember or subdue the unfortunate victim.
Python vs Alligator Florida
Pythons and alligators are not natural enemies. Alligators are one of two crocodilians that are indigenous to Florida.
Meanwhile, the Burmese python is an invasive species that has only been considered established in the region for about 20 years.
Since both species are semi-aquatic apex predators, that means competition for resources, and sometimes it means python versus alligator.
In this relatively new turf war, there is no clear winner. The alligators will hold their own and often eat some of the small to medium snakes, and then the Burmese pythons will come back eating eggs and swallowing whole alligators.
Below I’ve included three stories that illustrate a win for each species.
- Check out this video to see an alligator eat a python. In this video from ABC Action News, you can see a giant alligator, over six feet long, that has caught a python by the head. It whips the snakes around a few times to ensure the neck is broken, but the powerful jaws seem to have already ended the battle. Since this is likely too much to eat all at once, the alligator will probably have some now and stash the rest to eat as it rots.
- Watch this video for a time-lapse of a python eating an alligator whole. This video shows what is likely a smaller, younger alligator and a similarly sized snake. As you can see, the snake is the victor who manages to get the alligator by the head. Once its mouth goes around the gator, its main offensive and defensive weapon are disabled because it can’t open its jaw to bite back. You can see a little thrashing, but the snake is experienced enough to handle it. Slow and steady, the patient snake swallows the gator a little at a time.
- Finally, click here to watch another example where a man in Florida saves an alligator from a python attack. The man filming the footage offers more exact dimensions for this battle, stating that the snake is around eleven feet long while the gator is only about four feet. Oddly, the snake appeared to be simply holding the alligator in place, possibly drowning it. That would have been a slow battle. The American alligator can easily hold its breath for thirty minutes or longer under the right conditions.
Helpful Tips To Know About Pythons vs Alligators
Although the Burmese pythons are the invading species and American alligators are the long-time champs in the region, this battle of apex predators is unique. Both the snakes and gators win some fights.
Here are more helpful tips to know about pythons versus alligators.
- The American crocodile is also indigenous to Florida and may fight with the Burmese pythons. Crocodiles are even more sizeable and have different head shapes. However, there are also wild, escaped Nile crocodiles in the Florida Everglades to complicate matters further.
- In their native habitat, pythons don’t worry about much, though they’re not invincible. Some wild dogs, humans and even large raptors can kill pythons. Notably, pythons only predators are other large predators, and they only win sometimes.
- In 2000, Burmese pythons were recognized as a fully established species in Florida.
Hopefully, you never have to see a python versus alligator fight in person. However, if you do, they will most likely be too caught up in the deadlocked conflict to care that there’s a human around.
That’s a good thing since either of these species can and will eat adult humans. Unfortunately, while numerous fights between these two species have been caught on film, there’s no ‘ultimate’ champion in this contest.
When it’s a python versus an alligator, the winner appears to be the one who gets the other animal’s head in their mouth first.