Watch: Python Gets Lost in an Endless Loop of Its Own Skin

June 23, 2016 | Erica Tennenhouse

It’s a trap!

This Stimson's Python incredibly managed to shed its skin completely within itself. The snake’s tail actually finished shedding inside of its mouth, forming an endless loop that had the slithery creature lapping around in circles for 3 hours.

Alice Springs Reptile Centre, home to the confused snake, wrote on its Facebook page, “It actually looks like a steering wheel.”

Eventually, the likely exhausted python found its way out.

Employees commented, “Have been in the reptile business a long time and have never seen anything quite like it.”

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When snakes shed their skin (a process known as ecdysis), it is only the thin, clear outer layer that is removed. The tough middle layer contains thousands of hard scales, and the bottom layer is the thickest and contains the snake’s pigments — both of these layers are permanent.

Snakes do not have eyelids. Instead, their eyes are protected by a thin layer of skin called the spectacle, which gets shed along with their outer layer.

As the snake prepares to shed its old skin, a milky liquid is secreted under the outer layer to help loosen it. The snake then starts rubbing its head against a hard object, like a rock or piece of wood, causing the stretched skin to split.

The snake further stretches the outer skin by flexing its muscles, and at this point it begins to wriggle its way out of the old layer. After the snake has excised itself, the outer skin gets left behind, usually in one piece and inside out.

Shedding the skin creates room for snakes to grow. Unlike mammals, in which the skin grows along with the body, snake skin has a limited capacity for growth. Thus, when a snake outgrows its current skin, it simply sheds the old outer layer and acquires a new one that fits better.

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