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Be Afraid Because Science Says Some Snakes Hunt in Packs

2 minute read

It’s the worst nightmare of anyone who suffers from ophidiophobia. According to a new study, snakes are not the solitary hunters and eaters we perceive them to be. In fact, some of the slithery reptiles coordinate their missions to increase their success rate.

For the study, Vladimir Dinets, a research assistant professor of psychology from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, observed the Cuban boa — the island nation’s largest native terrestrial predator — hunting for food in bat caves.

Dinets discovered that if more than one boa was present, the snakes would team up and coordinate their positions by forming a wall across the entrance to the cave — with a 100% success rate. “Such group hunts were always successful, and the more snakes were present, the less time it took each to capture a bat. But if there was only one boa, it sometimes failed to secure a meal,” a press release about the study explained.

According to Dinets, only a small number of the world’s 3,650 snake species are known to hunt in groups and coordination between them has never been proven. “It is possible that coordinated hunting is not uncommon among snakes, but it will take a lot of very patient field research to find out,” he said.

The study, ‘Coordinated Hunting by Cuban Boas’, was published in the journal Animal Behavior and Cognition.


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Write to Kate Samuelson at kate.samuelson@time.com