Skip to main content

Mating in the red-sided garter snake, Thamnophis sirtalis parietalis: differential effects on male and female sexual behavior


Female red-sided garter snakes, Thamnophis sirtalis parietalis, become unattractive to most males after mating in the field and in the laboratory. Male red-sided garter snakes vary in their latencies to court attractive females following copulation, with courtship resuming in minutes to hours. Unsuccessful males in mating balls disperse from mating pairs, but are not residually inhibited from courting attractive females. These patterns of behavior indicate that males have evolved mechanisms to maximize opportunities for copulation with several females, while females mate only once per season.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


  1. Camazine B, Garstka W, Tokarz R, Crews D (1980) Effects of castration and androgen replacement on male courtship behavior in the red-sided garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis parietalis). Horm Behav 14:358–372

    Google Scholar 

  2. Crews D (1980) Interrelationships among ecological, behavioral, and neuroendocrine processes in the reproductive cycle of Anolis carolinensis. Adv Study Behav 11:1–74

    Google Scholar 

  3. Crews D, Garstka W (1982) The ecological physiology of reproduction of the garter snake. Sci Am 247:158–168

    Google Scholar 

  4. Devine MC (1975) Copulatory plugs in snakes: enforced chastity. Science 187:844–845

    Google Scholar 

  5. Devine MC (1977) Copulatory plugs, restricted mating opportunities and reproductive competition among male garter snakes. Nature 267:345–346

    Google Scholar 

  6. Dewsbury DA (1981) On the function of the multiple-intromission, multiple-ejaculation copulatory patterns of rodents. Bull Psychon Soc 18:221–223

    Google Scholar 

  7. Garstka WR, Camazine B, Crews D (1982) Interactions of behavior and physiology during the annual reproductive cycle of the red-sided garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis parietalis). Herpetology 38:104–123

    Google Scholar 

  8. Gregory PT (1976) Life history parameters of the red-sided garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis parietalis) in an extreme environment, the Interlake region of Manitoba. Natl Mus Nat Sci Ottawa Publ Zool 13:1–44

    Google Scholar 

  9. Halpert AP, Garstka WR, Crews D (1982) Sperm transport and storage and its relation to the annual sexual cycle of the female red-sided garter snake, Thamnophis sirtalis parietalis. J Morphol 174:149–159

    Google Scholar 

  10. Lowe CH Jr, Norris KS (1950) Aggressive behavior in male sidewinders, Crotalus cerastes, with a discussion of aggressive behavior and territoriality in snakes. Nat Hist Misc 66:1–13

    Google Scholar 

  11. Ross P Jr, Crews D (1977) Influence of the seminal plug on mating behaviour in the garter snake. Nature 267:344–345

    Google Scholar 

  12. Ross P Jr, Crews D (1978) Stimuli influencing mating behavior in the Garter Snake, Thamnophis radix. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 4:133–142

    Google Scholar 

  13. Prestt I (1971) An ecological study of the viper Vipera berus in southern Britain. J Zool (Lond) 164:373–418

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information



Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Whittier, J.M., Mason, R.T. & Crews, D. Mating in the red-sided garter snake, Thamnophis sirtalis parietalis: differential effects on male and female sexual behavior. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 16, 257–261 (1985).

Download citation


  • Sexual Behavior
  • Differential Effect
  • Garter Snake
  • Attractive Female
  • Female Sexual Behavior