As if weaving a friendship bracelet of death, two of the world's most dangerous snakes, black mambas, can be seen twisting around each other during a rarely videotaped battle in South Africa.
The action was recorded by Kirstie Bowers of Johannesburg, South Africa, while she was on safari in Pilanesberg National Park in the country's North West Province.
"That's a really nice video," says Kenneth Krysko, the collection manager of the herpetology division at the Florida Museum of Natural History. "It really shows two males in a classic combat behavior, with each trying to make the other one submit."
The snakes will sometimes bite each other during such battles, but they rarely inject any of their venom and aren't trying to kill each other, Krysko says. Normally, the males will shove each other until one gives up, and the winner then approaches a female that is ready to mate.
Female snakes typically mate with one male a season, and can store the sperm for months or even years, in some species. Males often try to mate with multiple females, depending on how many battles they can muster. (Watch another black mamba video.)
Krysko has studied the behavior—called plaiting combat—among king snakes in Florida, making him the first scientist to report the behavior in the species. Observing it in the wild is fairly rare, he notes, and can require a lot of field time.