Friday 24 February 2012

Goodness Snakes! Sociable Rattlers Cuddle With Their Kin

Though often regarded as loners, rattlesnakes may be relatively social, cuddling up with their relatives, a finding that suggests serpents may have more complex social lives than currently appreciated, researchers say.

Timber rattlesnakes (Crotalus horridus) had long been thought to be solitary creatures, though recent studies have suggested their social lives might be more complex. For instance, rattlesnakes in captivity preferentially associate with relatives and use the scents of their kin to guide them on where to forage and dwell.

To learn more about how sociable the snakes might actually be, scientists analyzed the genetic closeness of related clusters of the wild serpents.

Timber rattlesnakes living in the northeastern United States dwell in communal dens in the winter. They emerge in the spring, bask in the sun for several days at rock outcrops, and then migrate to surrounding areas to forage and mate. When pregnant, females do not undergo summer migrations, but instead bask at rookeries before giving birth in the autumn. Females in the rookeries often cluster together in groups of six or more, as do snakes at basking sites on occasion.

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