Snakes. Satan's henchmen. Slithery, sly, silent killers that have occupied a dank, evil slot in human culture since time immemorial.
Yet it transpires that they're more sinister buggers than we first thought.
A new study on constrictor snakes - boas, pythons, anything that kills its prey with a deathly hug - reveals that the prey isn't killed by suffocation, nor by cutting off blood flow, but by "over-pressurising the brain and disrupting neural function".
Yep. They squeeze your brain to death.
Three biologists from the University of Louisiana studied the constricting skills of two species of giant pythons. They noticed that large-bodied pythons possessed a crushing pressure greater than the blood pressure of their victims - a skill that prevents blood flow (the heart literally can't pump against the pressure exerted by the snake), but also sees the brain over-pressurised, resulting in neural functions controlling all vital organs seizing up.
"We propose the latter “red-out effect” as another possible mechanism of prey death from constriction," reads the study, published in the Journal of Experimental Biology. "These effects may be important to recognize and treat properly in rare cases when constrictors injure humans."
So should you ever find yourself in the scaly embrace of a python, you'll now be correctly informed that you're not suffocating to death - it's your pressurised brain that's going to kill you.
[Via: Discover Magazine]