by Inigo del Castillo in New Eco on Monday 10 March 2014

It’s official: alligators and crocodiles are getting soft. Last week, we saw photos of a snake devouring a crocodile in the swamps of Queensland, Australia. Now, photos show a river otter in Florida engaging a young alligator in an epic battle for lunch, with the mammal eventually emerging as the victor.

It looks like the cute and adorable otter is not the gentle creature we thought it to be. National Geographic interviewed reptile expert Terry Phillip of Reptile Gardens in South Dakota and Black Hills Pythons, about the curious incident. When asked how a cuddly animal could do such a daredevil feat, he says that otters are predators that are near the top of the food chain. So clashes with gators would be common.

On how the otter killed the gator, Phillip says that the little critter attacked from behind the neck, far from the reptile’s massive jaws. It also employed a sort of wear-and-tear strategy on the gator, killing it through lactic acid buildup.

‘The armor on the back is made to deflect bites from other alligators, so it’s very tough. Where the otter wins is in energy: The otter has sustainable energy, whereas the gator is like a grenade, with explosive energy that doesn’t last long. So the best tactic is to wear the gator out, which only takes a few minutes of thrashing and rolling around. Quite quickly it will be very tired, its muscles filled with lactic acid and no longer functioning. At that point it’s almost like it’s intoxicated, and the otter can then get it up on shore. The gator dies of lactic acid buildup, not from being eaten. It would take a long time to kill it that way’.

The photos were taken Florida’s Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge in 2011 by visitor Geoff Walsh, which he posted on the refuge’s Facebook page.

Via National Geographic