Boa Constrictors Can Sense Heartbeat of Dying Prey

Posted on January 21, 2012

Boa Constrictor Squeezing Rat to DeathResearchers have found that boa constrictors can sense the heartbeat of their prey. This ability enables boas to relax their grip and conserve energy once their prey's heart stops beating.

Researchers at Dickinson College, lead by Dr. Scott Boback, conducted a study to see if boas can detect heartbeats in the prey they are attempting to squeeze the life out of. The team researchers simulated life in humanely euthanized lab rats, by created an artificial heart and implanting it in the dead rat's chest. The boas reacted to the artificial heartbeat.

Dr. Boback says, "I will never forget the first time my students and I witnessed a boa constrictor responding to the beating of a simulated heartbeat in a rat. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. The snake visibly twisted and struggled as it felt the heartbeat in the rat. At that moment I knew we had just discovered something big. As the students shifted their gaze from the snake to me and back again, I told them I had never seen anything like this before."

Take a look:



Biology professors Scott Boback and Charles Zwemer, Assistant Professor of Mathematics Jeffrey Forrester and then-biology majors Allison Hall �10, Amanda Hayes �10 and Katelyn McCann �11 collaborated on the research paper that was published here in the Royal Society's Biology Letters.

Photo: Scott Boback