, Volume 43, Issue 1, pp 99–109

Thermal biology of the common garter snake Thamnophis sirtalis (L.)

II. The effects of melanism
  • A. Ralph Gibson
  • J. Bruce Falls

DOI: 10.1007/BF00346675

Cite this article as:
Ralph Gibson, A. & Bruce Falls, J. Oecologia (1979) 43: 99. doi:10.1007/BF00346675


The thermoregulatory significance of a striped-melanic colour polymorphism in the common garter snake, Thamnophis sirtalis, was assessed through a combination of labortory experimentation and field study. In experiments with living snakes the melanic morph maintained a higher body temperature than the striped morph, when exposed to natural insolation. Experiments with excised skin showed that this thermal advantage is attributable to some integumental difference between the two morphs. Body temperatures of snakes in the field revealed that, during the colder part of the active season, melanics were able to stay warmer than striped snakes by an amount (1.24 C°) approximating the difference observed in the laboratory. Some evidence and argument is presented to suggest that melanism also may confer protection against overheating in warm periods.

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1979

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. Ralph Gibson
    • 1
  • J. Bruce Falls
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of ZoologyUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Department of OrnithologyRoyal Ontario MuseumTorontoCanada

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