We've got to hand it to this alligator lizard: even when it's one big gulp away from becoming a snake's lunch, the little reptile has still got some fight in it...

Photographed by outdoor adventure author Bryan Snyder, this serpentine showdown played out on a rural road in southern California back in 2014. Snyder initially thought that the snake – a California kingsnake – was biting itself, but closer inspection revealed that a feisty alligator lizard was the one doing the biting.

"Although almost the entire lizard had been swallowed, the wily critter was hanging on with its powerful jaws, refusing to accept the inevitable," Snyder writes in a blog post. "It wore the snake’s head over its own as if it were a hooded sweatshirt, and cracked an eye open to gaze nonchalantly in my direction. Its attitude seemed to say, 'No big deal. I can keep this up all day if I have to.'"

It's not entirely clear who won the battle as Snyder could not stick around to watch the final outcome, but he suspects that the snake may have withdrawn.

California kingsnakes, much like king cobras, are named for their habit of feasting on other snake species, including venomous rattlesnakes to whose venom they have a natural resistance. But snakes aren't the only thing on the menu – these distinctive constrictors will also eat lizards, birds, rodents and amphibians if the opportunity arises.

Although kingsnakes are often confused for the highly venomous coral snake, these stripy reptiles are constrictors, so their bite is not deadly. Still, if you spot one in the wild, we wouldn't recommend picking it up ... they have been known to empty their bowels when handled.