A new UT study by Vladimir Dinets shows that some snakes coordinate their hunts to increase their chances of success. He studied the Cuban boa, pictured. Credit: Vladimir Dinets
May 23, 2017 (Phys.org) -- Snakes, although as social as birds and mammals, have long been thought to be solitary hunters and eaters. A new study from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, shows that some snakes coordinate their hunts to increase their chances of success.
Vladimir Dinets, a research assistant professor of psychology at UT, observed the Cuban boa -- the island nation's largest native terrestrial predator -- in bat caves for the study.
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.