Date of Award

5-23-2010

Document Type

Honors Thesis

Department

Biology

First Advisor

Scott Boback

Second Advisor

Charles Zwemer

Language

English

Abstract

Constricting prey is energetically costly for snakes and therefore it would be beneficial to minimize this cost. However, the consequences of arresting a constriction event too soon could be deadly. Thus, the duration of constriction is bounded by competing demands to kill prey and conserve energy. Snakes possess mechanoreceptors within their ventral and dorsal skin that are used for detecting approaching predators and prey. This experiment sought to determine whether Boas (Boa constrictor) can sense a simulated heartbeat in their prey. It was predicted that if snakes possess this ability, those constricting rats with a simulated heart would constrict with greater pressure and increased duration than snakes constricting rats without a simulated heartbeat. We recorded constriction pressure from snakes constricting rats with and without a simulated heartbeat. Using a two-way unbalanced analysis of variance (ANOV A) we found that boas constricting rats with a simulated heart did so for longer and with greater total pressure relative to those constricting rats without a simulated heart. These data suggest that snakes may be capable of sensing the simulated heartbeat and will adjust constriction pressure and duration accordingly.

Included in

Biology Commons

COinS