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Can a chopped-off snake head still bite you?

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Once during a very dangerous experiment, Geek Slop was bitten by a poisonous snake. After five days of blinding-white visions, sweltering fever, icy chills, mind-numbing headaches, icky red swelling, and unbelievably excruciating pain – the snake died. A chef in China found himself in a similar situation in August 2014 while he was preparing a popular dish known as cobra soup.

In addition to water, salt, and spices, cobra soup contains, you guessed it – cobra meat. The chef, who took great pride in the freshness of his ingredients, butchers the cobra during the preparation of the soup. The Chinese chef decapitated the cobra (cut off the snake’s head) and set the head to the side while he finished tossing tasty ingredients into the stew. Once finished, just as his mother taught him, he thoughtfully cleaned up his mess. But when he went to throw the snake’s head into the waste bin, it bit him – injecting his hand with deadly, fast-acting cobra venom.

Yes, it’s true. Snake experts say that all reptiles can function for hours after losing body parts – they are well known for retaining reflexes after death. In fact, there have been previous reports of people being bitten by severed snake heads. According to Live Science:

“The bite reflex is stronger in venomous snakes than it is in some other carnivores because these snakes use their bite differently than other meat-eaters. Unlike a tiger, for instance, which kills prey by sinking its teeth into an animal’s flesh and holding on, snakes aim to deliver just one, extremely quick bite and then move away from their prey before getting trampled. The rapid-fire attack can occur in less than a second. In fact, rattlesnakes have been known to envenomate (inject venom into) prey in less than two-tenths of a second.”

These eerie postmortem movements are fueled by the ions, or electrically charged particles, which remain in the nerve cells of a snake for several hours after it dies. When the nerve of a newly dead snake is stimulated, the channels in the nerve will open up, allowing ions to pass through. This creates an electrical impulse that enables the muscle to carry out a reflexive action, like a bite.

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