Finding Out How Boa Constrictors Kill (It’s Not How You Think)

“A new study confirms that boa constrictors and other crushing snakes don’t suffocate their prey after all. They cut off blood flow, resulting in rapid organ shutdown and a quick (though likely not painless) death.

In previous work, the same team noticed that snakes can apparently detect their prey’s heartbeat while constricting, and can gauge how much work they have to do to finish it off. This work suggests “snakes may actually be inducing pulseless electrical activity and therefore release prey precisely when they have achieved irreversible cardiac failure,” they write. This trait — quickly dispatching lunch while expending the minimum required effort — enables snakes to eat prey much larger than themselves, the authors note.”

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