A snake eel has recreated the iconic chestburster scene from Alien by burrowing out of the stomach of a heron and bursting through its throat mid-air.
This is the incredible moment a snake eel burrows out of a heron and bursts through its body while the bird is in flight.
Amateur photographer Sam Davis, 58, was taking photos of wildlife at a nature reserve in Maryland, US.
The engineer and keen nature snapper saw the heron capture and gobble up the eel and start to fly off.
A snake eel burrowed out of a heron and burst through its stomach while the bird was in flight in incredible snaps taken by an amateur photographer
Sam Davis, 58, was taking photos of wildlife at a nature reserve in Maryland, US, when he saw the unusual sight of the eel emerging
The engineer and keen nature snapper saw the heron capture and gobble up the eel and start to fly off
The extraordinary sight was reminiscnt of the iconic chestburster scene in Ridley Scott’s film Alien
But suddenly the eel burst from the bird’s throat and dangled beneath the heron while in the air.
Snake eels are a family of eel species that live most of their lives burrowed in the soft sand on the floor of the ocean.
When eaten alive by predators, they can perform a gruesome escape by using their hard-pointed tail tip, which is for digging, to burst through the predator’s stomach wall in a bid to escape digestion.
Suddenly the eel burst from the bird’s stomach and dangled beneath the heron while in the air
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When eaten alive by predators, they can perform a gruesome escape by using their hard-pointed tail tip
The snake eel uses its tail to dig through the predator’s stomach wall in a bid to escape digestion
Sam’s photos captured the moment the snake eel successfully escaped from the bird who must have regretted its choice of lunch.
Sam said: ‘I went to the refuge to photograph foxes and eagles and whatever else may be interesting.
‘There were two young eagles that saw the heron’s predicament and were following him around, I assume they sensed a meal.
‘Initially, I thought the heron was bitten on the neck by a snake or eel.
Sam’s photos captured the moment the snake eel successfully escaped from the bird who must have regretted its choice of lunch
The heron appeared to survive the gruesome ordeal and was flying around with the snake eel hanging beneath
The keen amateur photographer said he did not realise how the snake emerged until he had returned home
‘When I got home and edited the photos I could see it was an eel that was coming through his neck. I could see his eyes and he was still alive.’
Sam, who shares his photos to nature fans on his Instagram account, continued: ‘The wildlife refuge said they have never seen anything like that before. It is kind of a morbid photo.
‘There was also a fox who sensed that there was an animal in distress.
‘He followed the heron also and kept an eye on the eagles.’
Scientists recently found that the snake eel’s remarkable escape mechanism doesn’t always help save it.
Sam did not see if the snake eel did fully escape from the Great Blue Heron but was amazed by the natural sight
A nearby fox sensed the heron was in distress and lurked nearby, sensing a meal
While it is not digested alive, it often remains trapped inside the predator’s body and soon dies in the gut cavity.
The eel can remain trapped for a while before it is eventually mummified in the gut.
Martin Fowlie, an expert from the RSPB, told MailOnline: ‘I thought 2020 couldn’t get any stranger!
‘Snake eels have been recorded trying to burrow out from fish before in order to escape being eaten but I’ve not seen images like this before involving a bird.
‘I’m surprised the heron is still flying with what must be a sizable hole in it. I would imagine that the bird won’t survive such an injury though.’