Study reveals how boas encircle their prey without suffocating

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Recent experiments have shown that the boa constrictor can independently move different parts of its ribcage, so it can continue to breathe when it encloses its prey.

An extremely energy-intensive process

Snakes don’t have a diaphragm, which means they have to move their ribs to inhale and exhale. Although boas possess very long lungs extending beyond the body region used for the constriction of different types of prey (mammals, reptiles and birds), the lower part of these tissues is balloon-like and does not can’t actually breathe.

In the context of works published in the Journal of Experimental Biology, John Capano and his colleagues from thebrown university have wondered if this lung region called ” saccular nevertheless contributed to the breathing process during the constriction, which could last more than ten minutes and proved to be extremely energy-intensive.

The team placed a human blood pressure cuff on different parts of three boa constrictors and observed the body movements of each of the reptiles in X-rays during hissing (requiring deep breathing), using metal markers attached to their ribs.

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Independently controlled rib subsets

X-ray videos revealed that when one section of the ribs was compressed by the cuff, the snakes moved others to compensate. When the device covered the region above the upper lungs, the boas began to move the ribs surrounding the saccular region, remaining motionless when the upper ribs were not compressed.

When the upper part of the lungs was compressed, the snakes used these lower ribs to inflate and deflate the saccular region like a bellows. This allowed them to channel air to the upper lung region, where oxygen could be exchanged with carbon dioxide, allowing breathing to continue.

This is a deliberate choice of snakes, which can almost imperceptibly change the subset of ribs they use for breathing at will. “, highlighted Capano. ” These creatures have a very precise control of the muscles allowing their movement. »

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