This jaw-dropping scene aired as part of the new series of the BBC’s flagship natural history program, Planet Earth II, and seems to have captured the imagination of millions. (5,512,692 views in 11 days)
Filmed on Fernandina Island in the Galápagos, the Galápagos Racer (Philodryas biserialis) is a slim, fast-moving, mildly venomous snake that reaches lengths of up to 120cm (4ft). They were filmed during their best feeding opportunity of the year, as young iguanas are born and make a dash for the safety of the higher rocks above. Snake eyesight has evolved to quickly detect movement – and once they spot a target, their reactions can appear highly aggressive and relentless in pursuit.
But rather than capturing a coordinated attack from snakes hunting as a pack, this clip actually shows a number of snakes acting individually, on instinct. The time of year when these iguanas hatch is for these snakes the equivalent of Black Friday bargain hunting – it’s every snake for itself, because if they miss out here, they’ll go hungry. Collectively, the actions of these snakes can appear terrifying, but once a snake eats it loses its desire to hunt again.
Throughout history we’ve presented the snake as a symbol of evil and danger. No surprise then to witness the relief felt when the little iguana slipped through the snakes’ constricting coils and escaped to safety. But I suspect very few people gave a second thought to the plight of the snakes left hungry on the beach.
Over on Twitter, a lot of fans have remixed the clip with new music such as the theme from Indiana Jones (it syncs almost perfectly), the Benny Hill chase music, and the NFL TV theme.