Boas have a breathing trick to keep from suffocating themselves

When boa constrictors squeeze their prey to death, why don’t they end up suffocating themselves?

Writing in the Journal of Experimental Biology, researchers discovered that the snake has a very responsive rib cage, and it can adjust which section of its ribcage it uses to breathe. Researchers found that if a boa (Boa constrictor) is constricting its prey using the front half of its body, it can use ribs farther down to continue breathing. If the back ribs are in use, its front ribs will take over breathing.

The team uncovered this unique breathing method using their own unique technique. They placed blood pressure cuffs to restrict the movement of the snakes’ ribs in a lab, then measured air flow in and out of their lungs, monitored the electrical activity of different muscles and tracked how the snakes ribs were moving.

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Header Image: Boa constrictors can crush its prey with part of its body and breathe with another. Credit: ZooClub