Boa constrictors don’t suffocate rats, new research

This video from the USA says about itself:

Myth Busted: How Boa Constrictors Kill

22 July 2015

New research disproves the long-held belief that boa constrictors kill by suffocating their prey. Researchers at Dickinson College found that the powerful snakes actually inflict a very different cause of death.

From the Journal of Experimental Biology:

Snake constriction rapidly induces circulatory arrest in rats

Received February 21, 2015.
Accepted May 8, 2015.


As legless predators, snakes are unique in their ability to immobilize and kill their prey through the process of constriction, and yet how this pressure incapacitates and ultimately kills the prey remains unknown. In this study, we examined the cardiovascular function of anesthetized rats before, during and after being constricted by boas (Boa constrictor) to examine the effect of constriction on the prey’s circulatory function. The results demonstrate that within 6 s of being constricted, peripheral arterial blood pressure (PBP) at the femoral artery dropped to 1/2 of baseline values while central venous pressure (CVP) increased 6-fold from baseline during the same time.

Electrocardiographic recordings from the anesthetized rat’s heart revealed profound bradycardia as heart rate (fH) dropped to nearly half of baseline within 60 s of being constricted, and QRS duration nearly doubled over the same time period. By the end of constriction (mean 6.5±1 min), rat PBP dropped 2.9-fold, fH dropped 3.9-fold, systemic perfusion pressure (SPP=PBP−CVP) dropped 5.7-fold, and 91% of rats (10 of 11) had evidence of cardiac electrical dysfunction. Blood drawn immediately after constriction revealed that, relative to baseline, rats were hyperkalemic (serum potassium levels nearly doubled) and acidotic (blood pH dropped from 7.4 to 7.0). These results are the first to document the physiological response of prey to constriction and support the hypothesis that snake constriction induces rapid prey death due to circulatory arrest.

Mice kill petrel chicks on Gough island

This video says about itself:

By Ben Dilley, Gough Island, December 2013

Check out this short clip showing the new prion species making a racket in a cave on Gough Island. The new prion was discovered by research team Karen Bourgeois and Sylvain Dromzée who spent 2011-2012 on Gough Island as field assistants for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the Percy FitzPatrick Institute.

Broad-billed prions are the most abundant seabirds breeding on Gough, and they have a broad, blackish bill. By comparison, the new species has a narrower, blue-edged bill and breeds at a different time of year. The recent discovery that two species breed on the island three months apart came as a complete surprise! The paper reporting the new prion was published by Peter Ryan et al. in Polar Biology in March 2014.

From Antarctic Science:

30 June 2015

Effects of mouse predation on burrowing petrel chicks at Gough Island


Since 2004 there has been mounting evidence of the severe impact of introduced house mice (Mus musculus L.) killing chicks of burrow-nesting petrels at Gough Island. We monitored seven species of burrow-nesting petrels in 2014 using a combination of infra-red video cameras augmented by burrowscope nest inspections.

All seven camera-monitored Atlantic petrel (Pterodroma incerta Schlegel) chicks were killed by mice within hours of hatching (average 7.2±4.0 hours) with an 87% chick failure rate (n=83 hatchlings). Several grey petrel (Procellaria cinerea Gmelin) chicks were found with mouse wounds and 60% of chicks failed (n=35 hatchlings).

Video surveillance revealed one (of seven nests filmed) fatal attack on a great shearwater (Puffinus gravis O’Reilly) chick and two (of nine) on soft-plumaged petrel (Pterodroma mollis Gould) chicks. Mice killed the chicks of the recently discovered summer-breeding MacGillivray’s prion (Pachyptila macgillivrayi Mathews), with a chick mortality rate of 82% in 2013/14 and 100% in 2014/15. The closely-related broad-billed prion (P. vittata Forster) breeds in late winter and also had a chick mortality rate of 100% in 2014. The results provide further evidence of the dire situation for seabirds nesting on Gough Island and the urgent need for mouse eradication.

Webcam young white storks eat worms, moles, mice

This video from the Netherlands is called White Storks 5th May 2013 11:08 Feeding – 4 chicks.

In the Netherlands, this spring and summer, there is a webcam at a white stork nest.

It turns out the parents feed the young storks mainly earthworms.

The parents bring other prey, like moles and mice, as well.

Save Scottish red squirrels

This video is about two red squirrels feeding on walnuts.

From Wildlife Extra:

Major push to save Scottish Red Squirrels from extinction

Five charitable, government and landowning bodies in Scotland have united in a bid to secure the future of the iconic Red Squirrel.

It is the UK’s only native squirrel and numbers have declined rapidly since the introduction of Grey Squirrels from North America in the 19th century.

Since 1952, 95 per cent of Reds in England and Wales have been wiped out, and today 75 per cent of the UK’s remaining population is found in Scotland.

However, Greys still threaten the existence of the native Reds because they transmit the deadly squirrelpox virus, although they are largely immune.

The project aims to continue to prevent the spread northwards of Grey Squirrels and squirrelpox via a programme of squirrel control in a zone running coast to coast along the Highland Boundary Fault.

It will also define and map priority areas for Red Squirrel conservation in south Scotland, and co-ordinate the control required of the Greys to sustain a healthy red population.

Dr Aileen McLeod, Scottish Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, says: “Scotland has adopted a pioneering approach to protecting our Red Squirrel population, which involves a number of organisations working together.

“The number of Red Squirrels in Scotland is increasing and they are now returning to their former habitats.

“This has been most notably in the Borders, Dumfries and Galloway, Ayrshire, and the north-east of Scotland where people are once again seeing Red Squirrels visiting the bird feeders in their gardens.

“It is due to the great work being carried out by various stakeholders, such as the Scottish Wildlife Trust through the Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrel’s project, landowners, Forestry Commission Scotland, and volunteers who have been undertaking targeted control of Grey Squirrels.

“I am also delighted that RSPB Scotland is now involved in Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels, and will bring a wealth of knowledge to the project, which will benefit Red Squirrel conservation in Scotland.”

Stuart Housden, Director of RSPB Scotland, says: “We are in the privileged position of owning and managing more than 80 nature reserves across Scotland, and we already posses a huge responsibility for delivering on the conservation of our native Red Squirrels.

“We have been very impressed with the work of the Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels project, as it represents what we believe is the very best chance of preventing the extinction of this species on the British mainland.

“We are really pleased not only to be joining forces with the member organisations to help contribute to this important work, but also to commit hard-won charitable funds to this excellent project. We are looking forward to a very productive and constructive partnership.”

Project Manager for Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels, Mel Tonkin, says: “Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels has already been successful in beginning to reverse the downward trend for Red Squirrels in Scotland, but our work will need to continue for many years to really secure the future of the species.

“We are therefore delighted with this new partnership with RSPB Scotland. The RSPB has plenty of experience in the challenges of long-term species conservation and brings with it the opportunity to get a lot more people engaged in Red Squirrel conservation.”

Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels is a partnership project between the Scottish Wildlife Trust, RSPB Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage, Forestry Commission Scotland, Scottish Land & Estates, and the Red Squirrel Survival Trust.

Mice and shrews research in the Netherlands

This video, recorded in North America, says about itself:

The northern [short-tailed] shrew in the BBC’S Life of Mammals series. In this clip, a male hunts for food, wrestles with another male to establish dominance, and mates with a female. The female raises her offspring and leads them around the forest.

Today, the Dutch Mammal Society reports on research about mice and shrews in the Netherlands.

The research is based on small mammals’ remains in over 200,000 owl pellets.

They write (translated):

For 11 of the 17 ‘mice’ [and shrew] species is has now been scientifically established, based on owl pellets, where the species occur in the Netherlands and whether they are increasing or decreasing. Two species, the greater white-toothed shrew (Crocidura russula) and the bank vole have improved since 1995. The other 9 kinds of ‘mice’ are more or less stable in their distribution. For the other species there should be further research, so onward to the next 200,000 owl pellets!

The complete report is here.

Grey heron and coypu, video

6:30, early in the morning. A river in the Netherlands, with a grey heron and a coypu.

Walter Debloudts made this video.