What happens when a snake tries to eat itself?

Few images are weirder or more horrifying than that of a snake swallowing its own tail. Known as the ouroboros, "it symbolizes the eternal cycle of life and death," per the BBC. It's basically The Lion King meets King Cobra, a elegantly grim reminder that annihilation and creation feed into each other and that snakes feed human nightmares. Because bad dreams really do come true, Mother Nature's slithering children don't just eat themselves in a metaphorical sense. Actual snakes sometimes try to eat their actual tails. Why does this happen? If you can keep your terrified eyes cracked open, you'll find the answers you seek below.

Snakes really do try to eat their tails sometimes

Contrary to what common sense might be telling you, the fork-tongued devil isn't trying and failing to kiss its own behind. According to Sally South of the South Australian Museum in Adelaide, while most hissers won't stick their rear end inside their kissers, some will because "snakes have small brains and are more reactive than proactive." Hence, rapid movements, even of their own tail, can make some snakes confuse themselves with lunch. However, that's not the only cause for confusion. 

Sometimes snakes just get too hot for their own good. We don't mean that in a Sir Mix-a-Lot sense. Despite what the rapper would have you believe, the anaconda don't want none even it's got buns, hun. The problem, as IFL Science points out, is that snakes are cold-blooded. The technical term for this is "poikilothermic," which means their body temperature matches that of their surroundings and "if snakes get too hot, they can become confused and disoriented." Because their metabolisms are also temperature-dependent, the animals mistakenly think they're hungry and start chowing down on themselves. Sometimes, a snake is just blind as a bat and can't see that its backside isn't a desirable supper. Unfortunately for confused serpents, once they start, they become their own can of Pringles and sometimes can't stop. While they obviously can't eat themselves whole, they might die trying.