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by Brooks Hays
Golem Grad Island, Macedonia (UPI) Apr 18, 2013
Nature can be a cold and grisly place. Scientists perusing the Macedonian island of Golem Grad in Lake Prespa found that out the hard way when they happened upon a dead young female nose-horned viper with a centipede protruding halfway out the snake's stomach.
The two animals had, quite literally, eaten each other to death.
The viper was found without most of her guts, suggesting that after swallowed, the centipede ate its way out of the snake's insides. But alas, chomping its way out for one last breath of air was all the centipede could manage before joining the viper in endless sleep.
The researchers -- from the University of Belgrade in Serbia -- who came upon the crime scene detailed their findings in a report for Ecologica Montenegrina.
"Nose-horned vipers usually feed on small mammals, lizards, other snakes, amphibians and birds," the researchers wrote. "On Golem Grad Island, adult vipers feed on lizards, dice snakes, and small rabbits, while juveniles consume lizards and S. cingulata [the centipede found in the discovery]."
This particular nose-horned viper apparently bit off more than she could chew, swallowing a centipede that actually weighed more than she did.
"[W]e found that only the snake's body wall remained -- the entire volume of its body was occupied by the centipede)," researchers wrote, "which led us to suppose that the prey caused chemical or mechanical damage to the predator's digestive organs."
Scientists find first ever female animals with penises
If they have penises, then what makes them female? Well, they still give birth.
These strange female insects use elaborate erectile penis-like organs to penetrate and wrest the necessary sperm via their male's vagina-like opening.
The discovery was announced this week in the journal Current Biology.
"There's nothing that [this] can be compared to," study co-author Rodrigo Ferreira, a professor at the Federal University of Lavras in Brazil, told National Geographic. "This elaborate female penis is completely unique."
The four species are members of the Neotrogla genus, relatives of a group of insects commonly known as booklice or barklice.
During the unusual intertwining of these randy barklice, the females get more than just sperm -- in sapping the males of their reproductive fluids, females usurp little sacks of nutrients referred to as "nuptial gifts." In barren, dry caves, these nuptial gifts could be vital for survival, and help explain why the insects evolved to swap roles.
Nuptial gifts are so sought after, some females begin copulating before their developed enough to reproduce.
It's understandable why females would want a little bit of a nutritional pick-me-up after sex, copulation can last up to 70 hours. Such is the exhausting sex life of Neotrogla.
Neotrogla aren't the only species featuring males without penises, but scientists believe the four species offer the first example of truly reversed sexual roles, with choosy males and sexually-aggressive females. Scientists hope to study the Neotrogla in a more controlled environment for a better understanding of their behaviors -- to find out what turns them on, so to speak.
Darwin Today At TerraDaily.com
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