Unfortunately for the Chinese chef, a cobra's bite reflex can be triggered even hours after the animal dies, Beaupré said. The man reportedly picked up the snake's head just 20 minutes after he had chopped it off.
"Just because the animals has been decapitated, that doesn't mean the nerves have stopped functioning," Beaupré said. The bodies of snakes have been known to continue rising off the ground in a menacing pose, and even to strike out against a perceived threat, after they've suffered a beheading, he added.
These eerie postmortem movements are fueled by the ions, or electrically charged particles, which remain in the nerve cells of a snake for several house after it dies, Beaupré said. 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.
"The bite and envenomation reflex is triggered by some kind of information that comes into the mouth cavity," Beaupré said. "My guess is that this guy put his hand in the snake's mouth after he cut it off. He probably put a finger in there or something and it triggered this response."
And the Chinese chef is far from the first person to ever have been bitten by a dead snake. In January 2014, a man in Australia was bitten by a venomous red-bellied black snake 45 minutes after he had chopped the creature in half with a shovel, according to the Daily Telegraph. The man survived the incident, but reportedly spent two days in the intensive care unit.
In 2007, a man in Washington state decapitated a rattlesnake with a shovel before bending down to clean up the remains, according to a report by the Associated Press. The dead snake bit him in the hand, but the man survived the incident.
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