Newsflash: venomous snakes are capable of biting and killing even after their heads have been severed.
One ambitious chef learned this lesson the hard way last year while he was preparing a dish that required diced Indochinese spitting cobra. When he reached for a snake’s head to throw it into a bin, it did what venomous snakes usually do when something comes in close contact with their mouths. Except, of course, this snake was dead.
And now for some science:
“There’s no question that unlike warm-blooded animals, when you decapitate an ectotherm like a snake, they retain certain basic survival-based reflexes,” says Steven Beaupré, a biology professor at the University of Arkansas who researches venomous snakes. “People even put snakes in coolers and take them out hours later and they still have that reflex, because it takes awhile for the nervous system to deplete the ions that it needs to keep the nerve impulses moving.”
Beaupré guesses there are sensors in and around the snake’s mouth, which trigger the bite and venom-injecting response. What you’re seeing in the gif above is the follow-through of the snake’s defense mechanisms, provoked by its writing tail. And the copperhead is still able to do these terrifying things things because its slow metabolism means its cells haven’t actually died yet.
All of this to say: don’t stick your hand into a dead snake’s mouth.
Related: Guy Finds Snake That Bit Itself to Death