Posts Tagged ‘Cuban boas’

Pack-Hunting Cuban Boas (Chilabothrus angulifer)

January 8, 2021

Cuban boas work together when they hunt Jamaican fruit bats.  They each take a strategic position near cave entrances to increase the chances they will successfully ambush a bat.  Scientists believe the gauntlet they create requires active coordination.  Otherwise, they would all be laying on top of each other in the best strategic location, and bats could just avoid that area.

Found: Snakes That Hunt in Packs - Atlas Obscura

Cuban boas hunt in packs.  They coordinate their positions near cave entrances and ambush Jamaican fruit bats.  They kill their prey using constriction.

There are 12 species of large boas in the Chilabothrus genus, but each Caribbean Island usually hosts just 1 or at most 2 species.  Each island was colonized by 1 species of boa that drifted there on floating vegetation millions of years ago.  Once that species became established on the island, they precluded other species arriving on floating vegetation from colonizing the island.  Genetic evidence suggests Cuban boas diverged from their closest relative 17-20 million years ago, and since then they have prevented other boa species from establishing a population there.

Cuban boas were part of an unique ecosystem found on Caribbean Islands until it was disrupted by man thousands of years ago.  Cuban boas formerly grew up to 27 feet long, but now individuals larger than 9 feet long are rare.  During the Pleistocene they hunted hutias (large 15 pound rodents), birds, and lizards. They still hunt these species, but larger species of hutias became extinct after man colonized the islands.  Cuban boas may have also hunted the now extinct dwarf ground sloths that roamed the island then.  Cuban boas shared the environment with other predators including Cuban crocodiles, an extinct species of 3 foot tall flightless owl, and large extinct subspecies of barn owls and black hawks.  Since man arrived on Cuba, both boas and crocodiles have evolved to smaller sizes.

The 2 largest predators on Cuba have evolved to a smaller size, since man colonized the island.  Image from the below reference by Rodrigues-Cabrera.

References:

Dinets, Vladimir

“Coordinated Hunting in Cuban Boas”

Animal Behavior and Cognition 4 (1) Feb 2017

Rodrigues-Cabrera, T.; and T. Javier Torres

“An Overview of the Past, Present, and Future of the Cuban Boa, Chilabothrus angulifer, (Squamata: Boidae): A Top Terrestrial Predator on an Oceanic Island”

Reptiles and Amphibians Journal December 2016

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