Document Detail

Snake modulates constriction in response to prey's heartbeat.
MedLine Citation:
PMID:  22258447     Owner:  NLM     Status:  MEDLINE    
Many species of snakes use constriction-the act of applying pressure via loops of their trunk-to subdue and kill their prey. Constriction is costly and snakes must therefore constrict their prey just long enough to ensure death. However, it remains unknown how snakes determine when their prey is dead. Here, we demonstrate that boas (Boa constrictor) have the remarkable ability to detect a heartbeat in their prey and, based on this signal, modify the pressure and duration of constriction accordingly. We monitored pressure generated by snakes as they struck and constricted warm cadaveric rats instrumented with a simulated heart. Snakes responded to the beating heart by constricting longer and with greater total pressure than when constricting rats with no heartbeat. When the heart was stopped midway through the constriction, snakes abandoned constriction shortly after the heartbeat ceased. Furthermore, snakes naive to live prey also responded to the simulated heart, suggesting that this behaviour is at least partly innate. These results are an example of how snakes integrate physiological cues from their prey to modulate a complex and ancient behavioural pattern.
Scott M Boback; Allison E Hall; Katelyn J McCann; Amanda W Hayes; Jeffrey S Forrester; Charles F Zwemer
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Publication Detail:
Type:  Journal Article; Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't     Date:  2012-01-18
Journal Detail:
Title:  Biology letters     Volume:  8     ISSN:  1744-957X     ISO Abbreviation:  Biol. Lett.     Publication Date:  2012 Jun 
Date Detail:
Created Date:  2012-05-14     Completed Date:  2012-09-11     Revised Date:  2013-06-26    
Medline Journal Info:
Nlm Unique ID:  101247722     Medline TA:  Biol Lett     Country:  England    
Other Details:
Languages:  eng     Pagination:  473-6     Citation Subset:  IM    
Department of Biology, Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA, USA.
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MeSH Terms
Boidae / physiology*
Heart Rate*
Predatory Behavior*
Rats / physiology*

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