Bad News For Herpetophobes

As if we didn’t have enough to worry about, scientists have discovered something new about snakes.

Snakes have a creepy enough reputation.  There is something about an animal without limbs and slithers on the ground that elicits a primal fear.  And of course there is a word for that — herpetophobia, or fear of reptiles.  Perhaps the only good thing about snakes is that they are normally solitary animals when it comes to hunting.

Now for the bad news — a new study by Vladimir Dinets, a psychology professor at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, discusses what he believes is the first-ever evidence that some snakes do coordinate their hunting.  Published in the journal  Animal Behavior and Cognition, his findings are described this way in a press release:

“Many Cuban caves shelter large bat colonies, and in some of them small populations of boas regularly hunt the bats as they fly out at dusk and return at dawn.  Dinets noticed that the boas hung down from the ceiling of the cave entrance and grabbed passing bats in midair.  He found that if more than one boa was present, the snakes coordinated their positions in such a way that they formed a wall across the entrance.  This made it difficult or impossible for the bats to pass without getting within striking distance of at least one boa.

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.”

This is exactly the kind of scenario that brings on nightmares in humans — a group of squirming snakes hanging down from a cave entrance.   But before you try to sleep, the release also says that “to date, only a handful of snakes have been observed to hunt in groups, and coordination among them — or among any other group-hunting reptiles — has never been proven,” according to Dinets.

So just try to remember that part in your dreams.


The summary article and photo came from .


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