If you are an ophidiophobe, stop reading now.
A new study conducted by the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, has discovered that a species of snake, the Cuban Boa, coordinates group attacks on prey to increase the success of their hunting endeavours.
This is the first time any kind of snake has been observed hunting in a group, making this teamwork approach to the Boas' food finding incredibly new and intriguing. The study's author, Vladimir Dinets, observed the Cuban Boa hunting fruit bats. The snakes position themselves at the mouth of the bats' cave at dawn and dusk, the times when the bats are coming and going.
"Snakes arriving to the hunting area were significantly more likely to position themselves in the part of the passage where other snakes were already present, forming a 'fence' across the passage and thus more effectively blocking the flight path of the prey, significantly increasing hunting efficiency," the study's abstract states.
This 'fence' has become known as the 'snake curtain'. Doesn't that just leave a heart-stopping image in your head?
Not only does the study conclude that the snakes work together to kill their prey, but they achieve this by hanging upside-down from the cave walls. This is intended to block the bats' path in and out of the cave, thus making the hunt more effective.
"After sunset and before dawn, some of the boas entered the passage connected the roosting chamber with the entrance chamber, and hunted by suspending themselves from the ceiling and grabbing passing bats," the study paper reads.
Dinets' research also found that this 'coordinated hunting' requires a type of behavioural sophistication that was not previously recognised in reptiles.
"Coordinated hunting requires higher behavioral complexity because each animal has to take other hunters' actions into account."
According to Dinets, previous studies show that this kind of teamwork hunting doesn't actually result in greater food intake for the participants but, that it might have a social function instead, where communication and understanding are key.
And by social function, Dinets doesn't mean freaking out all of human society.
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