Snake Filmed Eating a Vampire Bat, A Scientific First

Rainbow boas are known for their iridescent sheen and eat a wide variety of animals including, apparently, vampire bats. Angela Rothermann via Wikimedia Commons

For the first time, scientists have documented a rainbow boa eating a vampire bat, in central Ecuador's Castillo Cave.

The research team, led by Sarah Martin-Solano from the country's Universidad de las Fuerzas Armadas, saw a five-foot-long rainbow boa (Epicrates cenchria) perched on the ground near the entrance of the care, which stretches nearly 1,500 feet underground. These snakes hunt bats in complete darkness by sensing movements of air stirred up by the flying mammals. They usually do so by hanging from cave roofs to catch high-fliers.

Though these boas and other snakes have been shown to prey on smaller bats, nobody had ever seen one snagging a vampire bat. In this case, it was Demodus rotundus, one of the heaviest bats and one of three species of vampires.

Eventually the team saw the boa strike and snag a low-flying vampire. They filmed the ensuing deadly encounter on the floor of the cave, where the snake constricted the bat for more than 10 minutes to crush and kill it. It then struggled to fit the large bat in its mouth, but eventually succeeded by detaching its mandibles and gobbling it up head-first, according to a study in the September 20 issue of the journal Subterranean Biology.

A wide variety of animals have now been shown to prey on bats, including, most commonly, snakes and birds, but also toads, fish, spiders and even centipedes, the paper noted.