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A Comparative Study of the Development of Prey Handling Behavior in Young Rat Snakes, Elaphe quadrivirgata and E. climacophora

Akira Mori
Herpetologica
Vol. 52, No. 3 (Sep., 1996), pp. 313-322
Published by: Allen Press on behalf of the Herpetologists' League
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3892651
Page Count: 10
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
A Comparative Study of the Development of Prey Handling Behavior in Young Rat Snakes, Elaphe quadrivirgata and E. climacophora
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Abstract

I examined differences of the feeding behavior between two species of rat snakes (Elaphe quadrivirgata and E. climacophora) in three age classes. I compared feeding durations, proficiency of immediate constriction, and effects of prey size on prey handling method, direction of ingestion, and condition of prey at ingestion. All snakes, except one group of E. quadrivirgata that was raised by force feeding, were raised on mice and resultant feeding behavior was compared when they were approximately 1 yr old (yearlings) and 2 yr old (juveniles). Feeding durations were compared between species in three age classes (hatchlings, yearlings, and juveniles). Yearlings and juveniles of E. quadrivirgata showed less efficient prey handling behavior when compared to E. climacophora in some points such as proficiency of constriction and condition of prey at ingestion. Mouse-fed yearlings of E. quadrivirgata tended to kill large mice before swallowing, whereas force-fed yearlings of E. quadrivirgata swallowed them alive, indicating that feeding experience with actual prey is important to develop adequate handling behavior. Elaphe quadrivirgata took longer to handle and ingest mice than E. climacophora as hatchlings but not as juveniles. Coupled with earlier studies, I suggest that E. quadrivirgata, a generalist feeder, is less efficient in mouse-feeding than E. climacophora and E. taeniura, endothermic prey specialists, throughout early development.

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