Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation
Top

The Boa Constrictor snake myth: busted

boaconstrictor1.jpg

Now thissssss isssss a very interesssssting sssssstudy. 

Remember all those times you were taught that a boa constrictor kills its prey by suffocating them? Well, it turns out it's not actually true.

That increased heart rate you had when you held a boa at the zoo and felt it tighten around your arm? That's actually a bit of a clue as to what's really going on.

Scientists from Dickinson College in Pennsylvania have discovered that snakes actually kill their victims by cutting off the blood flow to the animal's vital organs. This "shut off" rapidly destroys the tissue of the heart, liver and brain, with the latter often causing small animals, such as rodents, to "pass out within seconds", enabling the snake to have a much easier job of finishing it off. 

The findings, published in the Journal of Experimental Biology, were obtained by giving anaesthetised rats to snakes and measuring a host of body activity including blood samples, blood pressure and heart rates before, after and at the moment of death. Similar studies have been done before but this is the first to test for circulatory arrest directly from the body of the prey to confirm the theory.

Boa with prey

Lead researcher Prof Scott Boback explained that the original myth of suffocation could simply be an unintended side effect of the snake's main aim of blood flow restriction, saying, "If the snake is wrapping around the chest, it could also be limiting breathing, too. But an absence of blood flow will cause death more rapidly than suffocation. So it could be considered a much more precise and efficient method of killing."

He added, "The thing I find fascinating is that all snakes have is their mouth to engage with prey. A [constrictor] has to hold a potentially dangerous animal right next to it. And that animal's fighting for its life, so it will absolutely take chunks out the snake if it can."

A previous study by the same group also made the discovery that snakes were able to sense their prey's heartbeat so that when it stopped, they eased off on the squeezing in order to save energy. What a clever animal.

And, because it's brilliant, here's a video of Steve Irwin getting licked by the most dangerous snake in the world.

(Images: SSSSSSSShutterstock/SSSSSSScott Bobak)

[via BBC]

Related

snakeden4.jpg

Amazing Snake Den Video

snake_cake.jpg

The terrifyingly realistic snake cake

snake4.png

Snake resurrected for the smartphone generation

rexfeatures_1016053c.jpg

15 incredible places you didn't realise were in the UK

Snake1500.jpg

Finalists of Smithsonian Photo Contest Revealed

Evel5.jpg

The Fascinating Story Of Evel Knievel

Comments

More

Here are the words that other countries use to describe relationships

All the terms that would be much better to describe your 'life partner'

by David Cornish
05 Dec 2016

You’ll soon be able to test the purity of your cocaine and MDMA

by Alex Christian
05 Dec 2016

Vets want people to stop drinking at home for the sake of their pets

Your furry friends have a taste for the good stuff... and that's a problem

by Chris Sayer
05 Dec 2016

American hipster dads are demanding to be called 'papa'

by Ralph Jones
05 Dec 2016

America is now making educational adverts to prevent teen shootings

Funny that nowhere else has this problem...

by Sam Diss
05 Dec 2016

Watch this man rescue a dog by punching a kangaroo in the face

Probably the most Australian thing you'll ever see

by Emily Badiozzaman
05 Dec 2016

Bertolucci admits 'Last Tango in Paris' rape scene was non-consensual

He says he feels guilt, but no regret

by Emily Badiozzaman
05 Dec 2016

What does our love of fighting tell us about ourselves?

Why can't we stop watching people pummel each other?

02 Dec 2016

Widower, 89, offered bar job after "stop me dying from boredom" ad

He feels like he’s “won a thousand bucks on the horses”

by Chris Sayer
02 Dec 2016

You can now hire the services of deadly cyber hackers

Rent an army of infected bots and cause untold online havoc

02 Dec 2016