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An Experimental Study of Aggregation and Thermoregulation in Prairie Rattlesnakes (Crotalus viridis viridis)

Brent M. Graves and David Duvall
Herpetologica
Vol. 43, No. 2 (Jun., 1987), pp. 259-264
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3892059
Page Count: 6
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Abstract

Body temperatures $({\rm T}_{{\rm b}}\text{'}{\rm s})$ of adult prairie rattlesnakes (Crotalus v. viridis) were monitored as they dropped from approximately 23-6 C when alone and in groups, in a laboratory setting. Body temperature decreased more slowly when snakes were in groups than when alone. Yet after 20 h of exposure to an ambient temperature ( T a) of 5.5 C, T b's of animals in both groups were the same. Therefore, metabolic thermogenesis was not great enough to elevate T b of snake aggregations of this size at low T a over extended time periods, such as during hibernation. However, transient aggregations of small numbers of individuals may maximize retention of body heat acquired through basking in the sun. Particularly, thermoregulatory effects of aggregation may have been important in the evolution of this behavior among pregnant female snakes.

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