When boa constrictors catch their prey, they will try to squeeze the prey to death and mush it into a nice meal.
They need to mush it so it can slide it down their throats easier. If the snakes can know when the prey’s heartbeat is going out, they will save energy and time. If they use a lot of energy, the snakes will be tired and worn down and won’t be able to defend off a predator.
Scientists have created lab prey that has been dead just for a little bit so they are warm it up and put a beating heart into the animal. Boas generally squeeze their prey for about 20 minutes. When they put a continuous beating heart the boa
continued squeezing after the normal 20 minutes, but gave up shortly after. The Boa consistently adjusted its coils in order to get maximum levels of pressure on the prey. Next, they put an animal with no beating heart and the snakes squeezed half as hard and stopped after 10 minutes. Last the scientists put in a beating heart that stopped after 10 minutes. The snakes had the prey clenched for about 17 minute’s altogether.
Many scientists believe that knowing the prey’s heartbeat is an innate skill. In other words, they are born with the knowledge to know the heartbeat. Captive born snakes were able to do the same squeezing as the wild snakes. The wild snakes were able to squeeze harder and longer because they are stronger. Scientists think this skill was developed when they evolved and lost their legs but picked up more sensitive skin. The sensitive skin helps sense the prey’s heartbeat.
Being able to know the prey’s heartbeat is an extra advantage for the snakes. If they know the animal is unable to escape they can release it and save energy. It is potentially dangerous activity for the snakes as well. The metabolic rate of the snake raises seven folds during the process. Knowing the heartbeat saves the snake time and energy.
In conclusion, a snake being able to sense the prey’s heartbeat is very valuable skill for them. It saves them time
and conserves energy needed to do other things. The energy loss from the constricting puts them in a great deal of harm from other predators. Constricting the prey is a dangerous activity and knowing how long they need to constrict the prey helps them a lot.
Do you think the snake has this as an innate skill?
Why do you think this is important?
What does this do for the snake?