Journal of Chemical Ecology

, Volume 5, Issue 1, pp 141–151 | Cite as

The ophiophage defensive response in crotaline snakes: Extension to new taxa

  • Paul J. Weldon
  • Gordon M. Burghardt


A total of 21 new taxa of New World pit vipers (Serpentes: Crotalinae) responded by elevating the middle portion of the body in a defensive posture (body bridge) when exposed to the skin substances of certain colubrid snakes (Colubridae). Newborn snakes from two of the three species tested gave the response. Several new species of colubrid snakes also are documented as capable of eliciting a response, and it is suggested that the termophiophage defensive response be used to denote body bridging and associated defensive behaviors instead of the restrictive “kingsnake defense posture.” Most of the snakes which elicit the response in crotaline snakes are known to feed on lizards and/or snakes. There is no apparent correlation between the stimulus snakes' ability to elicit a response in the crotaline snakes and sympatry with the crotaline snakes.

Key words

Snake behavior chemoreception predator-prey kairomone Colubridae Crotalinae ophiophage defensive response 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1979

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul J. Weldon
    • 1
  • Gordon M. Burghardt
    • 1
  1. 1.Departments of Zoology and PsychologyUniversity of TennesseeKnoxville

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