Snake eels, a group of slender, sinuous fish, can perform a gruesome escape after they are swallowed by a bigger fish: They burst out of their predators’ stomachs. But that desperate and grisly bid for freedom may leave them worse off than before, new research reveals.

Most snake eel species’ tails end in a sharp, bony tip that they use for swiftly burrowing into the sandy sea bottom. When a predatory fish swallows a live snake eel, that tip can punch an escape hole in the predator’s stomach wall, which the eel then wriggles through tail-first. 

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