Just days after witnessing an incredible attack by a jaguar on a large yacare caiman, photographer Chris Brunskill has struck gold again. On September 29, he managed to photograph another of the great spotted cats taking down another formidable reptile: an anaconda.

This latest action went down in southern Brazil along the Cuiabá River, one of the drainages of the huge wetland complex called the Pantanal (which is also where Brunskill captured the jaguar/caiman sequence earlier in September). From a boat, Brunskill spied the jaguar prowling along the high riverbank, just moments before the spotted predator keyed into something in the grass. Brunskill watched as the cat reached out a paw ... and flushed out a yellow anaconda.

The snake writhed down the bank into the river shallows with the jaguar in hot pursuit. Brunskill – snapping pictures from just a few metres away in the boat – said the attack went on for about 90 seconds.

"The snake lunged at the jaguar several times during the confrontation and managed to bite it on the nose more than once before it was eventually subdued by the big cat with several ferocious bites to the mid-section," Brunskill wrote on Facebook.

Though outsized by their relative the green anaconda (the world's largest snake), yellow anacondas are plenty big, reaching lengths of 4.6 metres (15 feet), and good-sized individuals are capable of preying on animals as large as caimans, brocket deer, capybara and peccaries.

Pantanal jaguars have been previously documented preying on anacondas, though bigger mammals like capybara, cattle, feral pigs, peccaries or giant anteaters (and caimans, of course) are more typical fare. Boasting superlatively strong jaws, heavy fangs and plenty of predatory facility in the water, jaguars are perhaps the big cats most disposed to chowing on reptiles. They can crush through the shells of freshwater turtles like it's no big deal, and their trademark killing bite – delivered to the back of the neck or the skull – allows them to subdue potentially dangerous crocodilians and snakes with efficiency. Coastal jaguars have even been recorded killing nesting sea turtles (of a variety of species), hauling their huge marine quarry into beachside jungle and gnawing out the heads, necks and flippers.

The anaconda hunt Brunskill lucked upon is probably representative of how jaguars happen to occasionally catch the large snakes: an opportunistic encounter as the cats scout along riversides and marsh edges and wade through shallow waters.

But do the dining tables ever turn? Though it's the sort of thing you hear about in the annals of South American wilderness myth, even full-size green anacondas probably don't make lunches of jaguars with any regularity. That said, these huge boas may try after large cats if circumstances permit. In 2015, biologists studying pumas in the Rio Tietê basin of southeastern Brazil discovered one radio-collared cat – an adult female, 42 kilograms (93 pounds) – in the stomach of a 4.2-metre (14-foot) green anaconda. It appeared to have been a hard-fought meal: the snake, which died shortly after researchers tracked down the signal from the swallowed transmitter, had apparently suffered a fair amount of injury from the puma in the process of eating it.

Fresh off the coup of his caiman sequence, Brunskill seemed all the more amazed by the jaguar/anaconda spectacle along the Cuiabá. "This is by far the rarest of rare events in the life of the jaguar," he wrote, "and I know of several people who have spent 20 or more years on the river and not had the good fortune to see what I saw last week."



Top header image: Tuomo Lindfors/Flickr