A new study has found that snakes, which aren't exactly known for being particularly social creatures, actually practice coordinated hunting. Results of the current study suggest an underestimated social behavior among reptiles.
Coordinated Hunting Among Cuban Boas
As if snakes aren't scary enough on their own, a new study suggests that certain species of snakes practice hunting in groups instead of being alone. Though there could be a number of possible reasons for the observed hunting practice, the results of the study add to the volume of information we have on reptilian social behavior.
The study published in Animal Behavior and Cognition was a result of a tedious eight-day observation in a sinkhole cave in Desembarco del Granma National Park in Cuba. This particular cave had nine Cuban Boa inhabitants along with a hoard of bats, each evidently easy to identify by their individual markings.
Author of the study Vladimir Dinets of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville spent all eight days observing the nine boas in their day and night hunts after sunset and just before dawn.
Based on his observations, during hunting hours, Cuban boas would seem to coordinate their movements by forming a sort of wall right at the entrance of the cave when the bats are flying out. When they did this, they had a 100 percent chance of securing a meal, while when only a single snake was present, the results are less productive.
"Such group hunts were always successful," said Dinets.
He also observed that the Cuban boas would arrive 10 to 30 minutes before the bat flight would begin and then come again during pre-dawn hours 20 to 60 minutes before the bats returned to the cave. During hunting periods, Dinets observed that the maximum number of boas hunting together was three, and the second snake to arrive would choose the same hunting spot as the first snake, and the third to arrive would choose the same spot as well.
Social Behavior Among Reptiles
One alternative explanation that Dinets provides is the possibility of the Cuban boas' simply having similar preferences as the first ones to arrive in the cave. Though this is a very possible explanation, Dinets also points out that no individual boa used the very same spot more than once, so the likelihood of this scenario is pretty remote.
This is the first scientific record of coordinated hunting among snakes and also the first study to test for hunting success in coordinated hunts among reptiles.
Dinets states that the prevalence of social behavior among reptiles is underrepresented and that many important observations on reptile behavior are still unpublished. As such, he believes that there is a possibility that this behavior is not unique among snakes and that snakes could possibly be not as solitary as we may think, adding to the list of many things that we have yet to discover about the animal world.