We were wrong about how boa constrictors kill their prey


Since we were kids, we've been taught that a boa constrictor wraps itself around its prey and suffocate it. A new study suggests that's incorrect.

Rather, the boa's squeeze cuts off its victim's blood circulation, a much speedier method to kill the snake's next meal, according to the Dickinson College researchers. From National Geographic:

When a boa tightens its body around its prey, it throws off the finely tuned plumbing of the victim's circulatory system. Arterial pressures plummet, venous pressures soar, and blood vessels begin to close.

"The heart literally doesn't have enough strength to push against the pressure," says study leader Scott Boback, a vertebrate ecologist at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

Most animals can actually survive a relatively long time without breathing: Think about drowning people who are later resuscitated, he says. But the same isn't true for a body without a heartbeat.

If executed perfectly, the powerful squeeze causes the animal to pass out within a matter of seconds.

"Why We Were Totally Wrong About How Boa Constrictors Kill"

(photo by Joel Sartore)