It's rare for animals to engage in what's called "coordinated hunting" — but that's exactly what Cuban boa snakes do, according to new research published in the journal Animal Behavior and Cognition.
Coordinating hunting is distinct from hunting in groups, which is common across the animal kingdom. It takes place when animals relate in both time and space to each other while chasing after prey. In short, it's a form of strategic hunting in packs.
Researcher Vladimir Dinets, a psychology professor at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, found that Cuban boas pay careful attention to each other's positions in caves when hunting bats, and choose hunting sites based off that location information to maximize efficiency.
Dinets found that the snakes were more likely to position themselves where they noticed other snakes. Together, the snakes coordinated to form a fence of sorts in order to thwart bats attempting to escape and increase hunting efficiency.
This is the first study to definitively prove coordinated hunting among snakes, Dinets said. He added that little is known about the social behavior of snakes.
"It is possible that coordinated hunting is not uncommon among snakes, but it will take a lot of very patient field research to find out," Dinets said in a statement.
The research challenges the common narrative about snakes, long believed to be solitary hunters and eaters.
A video clip from the popular BBC program "Planet Earth II" (below) also appears to show snakes acting in concert to hunt their prey. The snakes chasing the iguana in this scene are Galápagos racer snakes, a fast-moving, mildly venomous species that grows to nearly four feet long.