Scientists in the United States have recently found that boa constrictors don’t suffocate their prey to death. Findings of the study conducted by them are suggesting that these snakes kill their prey using another method i.e. by inducing a cardiac arrest.
In a recently published press release, Scott Boback, one of the members of the research team said that he and his colleagues have been studying constriction for several years. During previous experiments, the researchers also measured the pressure the snakes exert when crushing rats.
Researchers carried out this new study with the aim of seeing what was happening inside the body of the snake’s victims i.e. the rats. For that, they began by anesthetizing a rat. Next, they inserted blood pressure catheters and ECG electrodes into the rat’s body. Finally the anesthetized rat was offered to a hungry boa.
First, the snake tried to bite the rodent’s head and then coiled around the prey. The researchers were constantly checking the heart rate and blood pressure of the rat on the computer screen. The two devices inserted into the rodent’s body were enabling live streaming of the rodent’s health data.
The researchers found that within just a few seconds, the rat’s blood circulation stopped completely. This shutdown meant that there was no blood flow to its brain. As a result, within seconds the animal passed out and its organs began to fail. This clearly showed that the boa constrictors don’t kill their prey by suffocating them, but by stopping blood circulation.
The boas allow us to have an idea about evolution of the crushing habit observed in snakes. Prehistoric species that didn’t have the ability to constrict their prey probably could only capture small meals that could be tamed easily. However, when the ancient boasts developed the quick constriction technique, they started capturing bigger preys. The technique allowed them to tackle animals bigger than them without much difficulty.
The findings of this new study provide us with more detailed information about the process adopted by these snakes for killing their prey. If you want to read through the entire study, check the recent edition of The Journal of Experimental Biology.