In nightmares, a snake wraps around you, growing ever tighter as you fight to breathe. You wake up convinced that death by a boa constrictor must be the worst thing ever.
However, research shows that these snakes don’t actually kill their prey by suffocation. It turns out that these deadly snakes kill by cutting off blood flow in their victims.
Found primarily in the tropical areas of Central and South America, the boa constrictor winds itself around its prey and tightens itself until the victim dies. The cause of death is now considered loss of blood flow, which actually creates a much faster death than suffocation, according to National Geographic. The circulatory system begins to crash immediately with loss of arterial pressure, restriction of blood vessels and an increase in venous pressures. The heart stops beating against the pressure of the snake’s body.
Stopping the heart of its meal offers advantages for the boa constrictor, explains LiveScience. It keeps the prey from attacking the snake with sharp claws and teeth and allows the boa to conserve its energy by ending the struggle more quickly.
An associate professor of biology at Dickinson College and lead researcher of the study, Scott Boback argues that this method of killing was important for the evolution of the boa constrictor. He further stated that the boa’s method “is extremely efficient at killing their prey and allowing them to be successful.”
Knowing that a boa’s killing method is actually a stoppage of blood flow might not make them seem any more friendly, but it sure is interesting. While either method of death is highly effective, it is fascinating how the killer uses the most efficient method to end its prey’s life.
But if that’s not enough knowledge for you, then check out what we learned this year about chameleon camouflage!