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article imageThe deadly kill of the boa constrictor revealed

By Tim Sandle     Jul 24, 2015 in Science
The widely held view as how boa constrictors kill their prey has been overturned in a new study. The idea that the snakes suffocate their victims has turned out not be so.
Scientists working out of Dickinson College in Pennsylvania have come up with a new theory based on a painstaking series of measurements and observations. A team of scientists took measurements, such as blood pressure and heart activity, from anesthetized rats gripped by the snakes. From this they put forward that the deadly grip from the snake actually restricted blood flow in the rodent to the extent that it cut off the blood flow supplying oxygen to its vital organs.
This means that circulatory arrest, a type of heart attack, kills the prey rather than the commonly accepted view that boa constrictors kill by suffocating their victims. Discussing the findings with the BBC, lead researcher, Professor Scott Boback noted that by restricting blood flow to the brain this also will make a rodent "pass out within seconds."
The new research has been published in the Journal of Experimental Biology. The research is titled "Snake constriction rapidly induces circulatory arrest in rats."
The boa constrictor is a species of large, heavy-bodied snake. primarily found found in North, Central, and South America. These non-poisonous snakes can grow to around 13 feet long. The snake takes in its prey, usually a mammal, through opening its mouth very wide.
In a earlier work, Professor Boback had shown that boa constrictors are able to sense their victim's heartbeat, and stop squeezing at the point when the prey's own heart stops ("Snake modulates constriction in response to prey's heartbeat", published in Biology Letters.)
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