Journal of Chemical Ecology

, Volume 15, Issue 11, pp 2531–2538 | Cite as

Conspecific scent trailing by garter snakes (Thamnophis sirtalis) during autumn Further evidence for use of pheromones in den location

  • Jon P. Costanzo
Article

Abstract

Adult garter snakes (Thamnophis sirtalis), collected in October near a traditional, communal hibernaculum in central Wisconsin, were acclimated to autumnal conditions and subjected to laboratory tests to determine whether they could follow scent trails of a conspecific. Graded responses were obtained, but 75% of the sample showed at least some inclination to follow scent trails. The results suggest that pheromone cues may be used by male and female garter snakes to locate traditional dens during autumnal migrations. Evidence from this and other studies suggests that pheromones are probably used in conjunction with other homing mechanisms and that the role of pheromones in den location may be more important in younger snakes and in populations inhabiting northern latitudes.

Key words

Pheromone scent trail chemical cue hibernation denning homing garter snake Thamnophis sirtalis Colubridae 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Brown, W., andMacLean, F. 1983. Conspecific scent-trailing by newborn timber rattlesnakes (Crotalus horridus).Herpetologica 39:430–435.Google Scholar
  2. Burghardt, G.M. 1980. Behavioral and stimulus correlates of vomeronasal functioning in reptiles: Feeding, grouping, sex and tongue use, pp. 275–301,in D. Muller-Schwarze and R. Silverstein (eds.) Chemical Signals: Vertebrates and Aquatic Invertebrates. Plenum, New York.Google Scholar
  3. Costanzo, J. 1986. Influence of hibernaculum microenvironment on the winter life history of the garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis).Ohio J. Sci. 86:199–204.Google Scholar
  4. Costanzo, J. 1988. Eco-physiological adaptations to overwintering in the eastern garter snake,Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis. PhD dissertation. Miami University, Oxford, Ohio.Google Scholar
  5. Dundee, H., andMiller, M., III. 1968. Aggregative behavior and habitat conditioning by prairie ringneck snakes,Diadophis punctatus arnyi.Tulane Stud. Zool. 15:41–58.Google Scholar
  6. Duvall, D., King, M., andGutzwiller, K. 1985. Behavioral ecology and ethology of the prairie rattlesnake.Nat. Geogr. Res. 1:80–112.Google Scholar
  7. Ford, N. 1981. Seasonality of pheromone trailing behavior in two species of garter snake,Thamnophis (Colubridae).Southwest. Nat. 26:385–388.Google Scholar
  8. Ford, N. 1986. The role of pheromone trails in the sociobiology of snakes, pp. 261–278,in D. Duvall, D. Muller-Schwarze, and R. Silverstein (eds.). Chemical Signals in Vertebrates, IV. Plenum, New York.Google Scholar
  9. Ford, N., andLowe, J., Jr. 1984. Sex pheromone source location by garter snakes: a mechanism for detection of direction in nonvolatile trails.J. Chem. Ecol. 10:1193–1199.Google Scholar
  10. Graves, B., Duvall, D., King, M., Linstedt, S., andGern, W. 1986. Initial den location by neonatal prairie rattlesnakes: functions, causes, and natural history in chemical ecology, pp. 285–304,in D. Duvall, D. Muller-Schwarze, and R. Silverstein (eds.). Chemical Signals in Vertebrates, IV. Plenum, New York.Google Scholar
  11. Gregory, P. 1982. Reptilian hibernation, pp. 53–154,in C. Gans and F. Pough (eds.). Biology of the Reptilia, XIII. Academic Press, New York.Google Scholar
  12. Gregory, P. 1984. Communal denning in snakes, pp. 57–75,in R. Seigel, L. Hunt, J. Knight, L. Malaret, and N. Zuschlag (eds.). Vertebrate Ecology and Systematics—A Tribute to Henry S. Fitch. University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas.Google Scholar
  13. Gregory, P., Macartney, J., andLarsen, K. 1987. Spatial patterns and movements, pp. 366–395,in R. Seigel, J. Collins, and S. Novak (eds.). Snakes: Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. Macmillan, New York.Google Scholar
  14. Heller, S., andHalpern, M. 1981. Laboratory observations on conspecific and congeneric scent trailing in garter snakes (Thamnophis).Behav. Neural. Biol. 33:372–377.Google Scholar
  15. Hirth, H. 1966. The ability of two species of snakes to return to a hibernaculum after displacement.Southwest. Nat. 11:49–53.Google Scholar
  16. King, M., McCarron, D., Duvall, D., Baxter, G., andGern, W. 1983. Group avoidance of conspecific but not interspecific chemical cues by prairie rattlesnakes (Crotalus viridis).J. Herpetol. 17:196–198.Google Scholar
  17. Klauber, L. 1956. Rattlesnakes. Their Habits, Life Histories, and Influence on Mankind, (2 vols.) University of California, Los Angeles.Google Scholar
  18. Landreth, H. 1973. Orientation and behavior of the rattlesnake,Crotalus atrox.Copeia 1973:26–31.Google Scholar
  19. Lawson, P. 1985. Preliminary investigations into the roles of visual and pheromonal stimuli on aspects of behavior of the western plains garter snake,Thamnophis radix haydeni. MS thesis. University of Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada.Google Scholar
  20. Newcomer, R., Taylor, D., andGuttman, S. 1974. Celestial orientation in two species of water snakes (Natrix sipedon andRegina septemvittata).Herpetologica 30:194–204.Google Scholar
  21. Noble, G., andClausen, H. 1936. The aggregation behavior ofStoreria dekayi and other snakes, with especial reference to the sense organs involved.Ecol. Monogr. 6:271–316.Google Scholar
  22. Parker, W., andBrown, W. 1980. Comparative ecology of two colubrid snakes,Masticophis t. taeniatus andPituophis melanoleucus deserticola, in northern Utah. Milwaukee Publ. Mus. Publ. Biol. Geol. No. 7:1–104.Google Scholar
  23. Sokal, R., andRohlf, F. 1969. Biometry. W.H. Freeman, San Francisco.Google Scholar
  24. Stevenson, R., Peterson, C., andTsuji, J. 1985. The thermal dependence of locomotion, tongue flicking, digestion, and oxygen consumption in the wandering garter snake.Physiol. Zool. 58:46–57.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jon P. Costanzo
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of ZoologyMiami UniversityOxford

Personalised recommendations