Boa constrictors, long popularly thought to be stranglers or suffocaters, actually kill prey by squeezing until its heart stops. A clever study used simulated hearts placed within dead lab rats so that scientists could control when the "heart" stopped. Indeed, boas would modulate the pressure of their "squeeze" based on how strong or faint the victim's heartbeat was. And when the scientists kept the artificial heart beating well after any rat would have died, the snakes kept writhing and constricting in an obvious continued attempt to kill the prey.
The question all cognitive scientists are wondering: does this count as theory of mind (being able to imagine what someone else is thinking)??
"Be still, my heart!"
Boa constrictors don’t so much suffocate prey as break their hearts. It turns out that the snakes kill like demon blood pressure cuffs, squeezing down circulation to its final stop. The notion that constrictors slay by preventing breathing turns out to be wrong. The snakes don’t need limbs, or even venom, to bring down an animal of their own size. “Imagine you’re killing and swallowing a 150-pound animal in one meal — with no hands or legs!” animal ecologist Scott Boback tells his students at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa., to convey what extraordinary hunters snakes are. Speed matters with prey flailing claws, hooves or other weaponry the snake lacks. Embracing prey into heart failure is faster than suffocating it and appeared in different forms multiple times in snake history.