Chemosensory cues allow courting male garter snakes to assess body length and body condition of potential mates

R. Shine*, B. Phillips, H. Waye, M. LeMaster, R. T. Mason

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

64 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

When choosing between two potential mates, a male may benefit by picking a larger (longer and/or more heavy-bodied) female because she is likely to produce more or larger offspring. Males of many species use visual cues to evaluate the sizes of their mates, but in some situations (at night or in a crowded mating swarm), vision may be useless. Potentially, males may be able to use chemical cues that convey information about female body size. We manipulated cues available to free-ranging male garter snakes (Thamnophis sirtalis parietalis) in large courting aggregations near communal dens in Manitoba, Canada. Males not only directed disproportionate courtship to longer and heavier-bodied females, but also courted most vigorously in response to lipids extracted from the skins of such females. Our data show that with a flick of his tongue, a male garter snake can identify not only a female's body length, but also her body condition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)162-166
Number of pages5
JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Volume54
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2003
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Courtship
  • Garter snake
  • Lipids Pheromones
  • Thamnophis sirtalis parietalis

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