Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 66, Issue 5, pp 691–695

Facultative pheromonal mimicry in snakes: “she-males” attract courtship only when it is useful

Original Paper

Abstract

Males of many animal species mimic females, and thereby deceive rival males. Facultative shifts in posture, color, or movement allow a male using visually-based mimicry to adopt and terminate mimicry rapidly. Pheromonal mimicry is rare in vertebrates perhaps because it is difficult to redeploy pheromones rapidly enough to adjust male tactics to local conditions. In Manitoba garter snakes (Thamnophis sirtalis parietalis), female mimicry benefits males immediately after they have emerged from hibernation. While the snakes are cold and slow, courtship warms them and protects them against predatory crows. This benefit disappears as soon as the snakes are warm. We show that (unlike females) she-male garter snakes attract courting males only when they are cold. Low temperatures may suppress volatility of “less attractive” components of the pheromones (saturated methyl ketones) that she-males use to attract courtship, allowing male snakes to function as transvestites only when this tactic is beneficial.

Keywords

Chemical communication Reproductive tactics Reptile sociality Sexual mimicry 

References

  1. Andersson M (1994) Sexual selection. Princeton University Press, PrincetonGoogle Scholar
  2. Brower LP (1988) Mimicry and the evolutionary process. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  3. Cardé RT, Bel WJ (1995) Chemical ecology of insects 2. Springer, BerlinCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Gregory PT, Stewart KW (1975) Long-distance dispersal and feeding strategy of the red-sided garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis parietalis) in the Interlake of Manitoba. Can J Zool 53:238–245CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Gunstone FD (1996) Fatty acid and lipid chemistry. Blackie Academic, GlasgowCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Hanlon RT, Naud M-J, Shaw PW, Havenhand JN (2005) Transient sexual mimicry leads to fertilisation. Nature 430:212CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Korzan WJ, Robison RR, Zhao S, Fernald RD (2008) Color change as a potential behavioral strategy. Horm Behav 54:463–470PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. LeMaster MP, Stefani A, Shine R, Mason RT (2008) Cross-dressing in chemical cues: exploring ‘she-maleness’ in newly-emerged male garter snakes. In: Hurst JL, Beynon RJ, Roberts SC, Wyatt TD (eds) Chemical signals in vertebrates 11. Springer, New York, pp 223–230CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Maderson PFA (1986) Tetrapod epidermis: a system protoadapted as a semiochemical source. In: Duvall D, Muller-Schwarze D, Silverstein RM (eds) Chemical signals in vertebrates 4. Ecology, evolution and comparative biology. Plenum, New York, pp 13–26CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Mason RT, Crews D (1985) Female mimicry in garter snakes. Nature 316:59–60PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Mason RT, Parker MR (2010) Social behavior and pheromonal communication in reptiles. J Comp Physiol A 196:729–749CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Moore IT, Mason RT (2001) Behavioral and hormonal responses to corticosterone in the male red-sided garter snake, Thamnophis sirtalis parietalis. Physiol Behav 72:669–674PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Peschke K (1987) Male aggression, female mimicry and female choice in the rove beetle, Aleochara curtula (Coleoptera, Staphylinidae). Ethology 75:265–284CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Pfrender M, Mason RT, Wilmslow JT, Shine R (2001) Thamnophis sirtalis parietalis (red-sided gartersnake). Male-male copulation. Herpetol Rev 32:52Google Scholar
  15. Shine R, Mason RT (2001) Courting male garter snakes use multiple cues to identify potential mates. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 49:465–473CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Shine R, Harlow P, LeMaster MP, Moore IT, Mason RT (2000a) The transvestite serpent: why do male garter snakes court (some) other males? Anim Behav 59:349–359PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Shine R, O'Connor D, Mason RT (2000b) Female mimicry in garter snakes: behavioural tactics of “she-males” and the males that court them. Can J Zool 78:1391–1396CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Shine R, Olsson MM, LeMaster MP, Moore IT, Mason RT (2000c) Effects of sex, body size, temperature and location on the antipredator tactics of free-ranging gartersnakes (Thamnophis sirtalis, Colubridae). Behav Ecol 11:239–245CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Shine R, Olsson MM, Mason RT (2000d) Chastity belts in gartersnakes: the functional significance of mating plugs. Biol J Linn Soc 70:377–390CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Shine R, LeMaster MP, Moore IT, Olsson MM, Mason RT (2001a) Bumpus in the snake den: effects of sex, size and body condition on mortality in red-sided garter snakes. Evolution 55:598–604PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Shine R, Phillips B, Waye H, LeMaster M, Mason RT (2001b) Benefits of female mimicry in snakes. Nature 414:267PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Shine R, Elphick MJ, Harlow PS, Moore IT, LeMaster MP, Mason RT (2001c) Movements, mating and dispersal of red-sided gartersnakes from a communal den in Manitoba. Copeia 2001:82–91CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Shine R, Langkilde T, Mason RT (2003a) Cryptic forcible insemination: male snakes exploit female physiology, anatomy and behavior to obtain coercive matings. Am Nat 162:653–667PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Shine R, Phillips B, Waye H, LeMaster M, Mason RT (2003b) Chemosensory cues allow courting male garter snakes to assess body length and body condition of potential mates. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 54:162–166Google Scholar
  25. Shine R, Wall M, Langkilde T, Mason RT (2005) Battle of the sexes: forcibly-inseminating male garter snakes target courtship to more vulnerable females. Anim Behav 70:1133–1140CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Shine R, Langkilde T, Wall M, Mason RT (2006) Temporal dynamics of emergence and dispersal of garter snakes from a communal den in Manitoba. Wildl Res 33:103–111CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Vereecken NJ, McNeil JN (2010) Cheaters and liars: chemical mimicry at its finest. Can J Zool 88:725–752CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Whiting MJ, Webb JK, Keogh JS (2009) Flat lizard female mimics use sexual deception in visual but not chemical signals. Proc R Soc B 276:1585–1591PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Whittier JM, Mason RT, Crews D (1985) Mating in the red-sided gartersnake, Thamnophis sirtalis parietalis: differential effects on male and female sexual behavior. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 16:257–261CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Biological Sciences A08University of SydneySydneyAustralia
  2. 2.Department of ZoologyOregon State UniversityCorvallisUSA
  3. 3.Department of BiologyPennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA

Personalised recommendations