A team of biologists wanted to see how a boa constrictor really kills its prey before eating and conducted an experiment to determine this. Everyone assumed that because the prey is gasping for air, the boa constrictor suffocates its victim, but the new study reveals that that’s not the case. The researchers found that boa constrictors actually stop the blood flow to the animal’s brain by strangle its body with all its strength.
The results of the new research were published in the latest edition of the Journal of Experimental Biology.
According to the biologists who conducted the experiments, the boa constrictor doesn’t suffocate its prey as it was previously believed. The researchers who debunked this myth said that it’s understandable that people believed it because it looked like the prey was gasping for air while in the snake’s death embrace.
The lead author of the study is Scott Boback, an associate professor at Dickinson College, who discovered how the boa constrictor kills its prey while conducting some experiments with his colleague Dave Hardy.
Boback said he was confused by the fact that the snake’s prey died too quickly to be suffocation. At that time he assumed that the animals died due to cardiac or circulatory arrest because they died fast.
In order to test it, the biologists started to monitor what really happens to the snake’s prey when it is being constricted. They explained that they didn’t want to hurt the animals so during the experiments they had them anesthetized. The rats were sedated and brought to a hungry boa constrictor. The snake aimed its bite at the victim’s head first and then started to coil its body around it and squeeze hard. The researchers had applied ECG electrodes on the body of the rat to see what happened to them during the strangulation. According to the biologists, the blood circulation of the rodent was shut down in just a few seconds.
Boback said he couldn’t believe that it happened so fast. They were looking at the arterial pressure going down in a matter of seconds, while the venous pressure was rising. All these were happening as the snake was constricting its prey.
According to the researchers, by stopping the blood flow to the brain, the victim passes out in just a few seconds, which eliminates pain and makes it easier for the snake to swallow it easier. After the prey passes out, critical organs start to fail and the prey eventually dies.
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