, Volume 71, Issue 4, pp 560–563 | Cite as

Live blind snakes (Leptotyphlops dulcis) in eastern screech owl (Otus asio) nests: a novel commensalism

  • F. R. Gehlbach
  • R. S. Baldridge
Original Papers


Eastern screech owls bring live blind snakes to their nestlings, whereas all other prey are delivered dead. Some of the snakes are eaten but most live in nest debris, where they eat soft-bodied insect larvae from the decomposer community in fecal matter, pellets, and uneaten prey. Consumption of larvae may reduce larval parasitism on owl nestlings or larval competition with nestlings for food stored in the nest, because nestlings with live-in blind snakes grow faster and experience lower mortality than same-season broods lacking snakes. We propose a commensalistic association in which the screech owl benefits reproductively and the live-in blind snake is not affected.

Key words

Otus Leptotyphlops Commensalism 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • F. R. Gehlbach
    • 1
  • R. S. Baldridge
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BiologyBaylor UniversityWacoUSA

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