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Envenornated-invertebrate prey preference of the viperid Agkistrodon contortrix during strike-induced chemosensory searching

, : Envenornated-invertebrate prey preference of the viperid Agkistrodon contortrix during strike-induced chemosensory searching. Amphibia Reptilia 25(2): 165-172

Many crotaline snakes exhibit envenomated-prey preference in laboratory experiments. We examined the ability of copperheads (Agkistrodon contortrix) to distinguish between envenomated and nonenvenomated tobacco hornworm larvae (Manduca sexta). Snakes directed significantly more tongue flicks at envenomated homworms than at nonenvenomated homworms, and snakes consumed envenomated homworms more frequently than nonenvenomated prey. These results support the hypothesis that envenomated tissue is an important stimulus to copperheads during strike-induced chemosensory searching. Copperheads preferred homworms envenomated by conspecifics in the relative order: Louisiana > Texas > Kansas; this preference matches the relative order of preference and venom potency documented in a previous study of copperheads for envenomated mice. We conclude that the venom protein-prey tissue interaction responsible for the observed behaviour is similar in both invertebrate and rodent prey items.


DOI: 10.1163/1568538041231210

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