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Boa Constrictor Study: How They Really Kill Their Prey

Boa constrictors attack their prey quickly, ending the life of an intended meal within seconds. The scientific community has long believed that the predatory snakes suffocate their prey. However, a new study has shown that boa constrictors actually cut off the blood flow of their victims, causing circulatory arrest.

In 1994, scientist Dave Hardy noted that the animals preyed upon by the constrictors were dying much faster than a typical suffocation death, reports The Huffington Post. Eleven years later, Hardy’s colleague, an assistant professor at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania and lead author of the new study, Scott Boback, confirms Hardy’s suspicions.

When a boa constrictor kills an animal, “it looks like the [prey] animals are gasping for air,” said Boback in way of explanation of previous assumptions. Hardy has suspected all along that the snakes cause cardiac arrest.

It looks like the [prey] animals are gasping for air. He suspected that it was circulatory or cardiac arrest because of the speed at which death was occurring.

Boback and his team of researchers went about the study by testing how anesthetized rats reacted to the constriction of the snakes, according to Christian Science Monitor.

The rats had electrocardiogram electrodes implanted to measure their heart rates, and a blood pressure catheter inserted into a major artery and vein. “We did that with an artery and a vein because we wanted to see both sides of the circulatory system,” explained Boback.

Each of the 24 rats involved in the study had a blood sample taken before they were anesthetized and placed next to the boa constrictors. After the testing, the dead rats were removed before the snakes could eat them for examination.

The hungry snakes struck the rats swiftly. The rodents were wrapped in the bodies of the constricting snakes, and the sensors indicated that the rats’ circulation shut down within seconds of being attacked.

The rats’ arterial pressure dropped and their venous pressures rose. Meaning, their hearts had trouble pumping oxygenated blood through their bodies at the same time blood was having difficulty returning to their hearts. Simply put, the rats had heart attacks.

While the rats in the study were anesthetized before the experiment, the study suggests that in the wild the rodents would have passed out from loss of blood to the brain and death would occur when their critical organs fail.

“We wanted to make sure that the animals did not experience pain or suffer,” Boback noted when he spoke of the anesthetization of the rats.

It was not something that we took lightly and we wanted to make sure that the animals did not experience pain or suffer.

The study was published on Wednesday in the online journal The Journal of Experimental Biology.

In an unrelated study on rats, scientists discovered that the rodents dream while they sleep. Much like humans, the sleeping rats dreamt of the future and ways of accomplishing their goals.

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