Title

Using Clay Models to Test for Avian Recognition of Aposematic Warning Coloration of Ring-Neck Snakes (Diadophis punctatus)

Presenter Information

Hanna Crow

Document Type

Oral Presentation

Location

SURC Ballroom B/C/D

Start Date

21-5-2015

End Date

21-5-2015

Keywords

Snake, Behavior, Aposematism

Abstract

Aposematic coloration is a common theme among many animals, both vertebrate and invertebrate. The bright and contrasting colors warn possible predators of distasteful and even poisonous compounds. The recognition of such warning signals has been shown within mammals, fishes, and avian and non-avian reptiles. For our study, we examined the efficacy of such possible warning coloration in a small, cryptic species of snake, the ring-neck snake (Diadophis punctatus). Ring-neck snakes are a trans-continental species that average less than 70 cm total length. Within the western United States, they are strongly associated with oak-pine woodland and along riparian zones in semi-arid habitats. When discovered by possible predators, ring-neck snakes are well known for revealing vibrant yellow or orange bellies, and for an upward curling of the bright red ventral surface of the tail. For our experiment, we used six types of clay models. The first three were green with alternating patterns of dots (i.e., no dots, single, or double row). The other type of model was bright orange with this same pattern of dots. Models, n=246, were placed in appropriate habitat where several species of birds might see them. After four to six days, models were gathered and scored for bite marks. Once scored, percentage of bit marks for each model type was determined. The percentages for the green models with varying patterns of dots are as follows: no dot, 34.6 percent; single row, 27.1 percent; and double row, 32.3 percent. The percentages for the orange models with varying patterns of dots are as follows: no dot, 2.3 percent; single row, 0.8 percent; and double row, 3 percent. These data show a greater percentage of bite marks in green models compared to orange models, pointing to the conclusion that there is avian recognition of aposematic warning coloration in D. Punctatus.

Poster Number

50

Faculty Mentor(s)

Robert Weaver

Department/Program

Biological Sciences

Additional Mentoring Department

Biological Sciences

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Using Clay Models to Test for Avian Recognition of Aposematic Warning Coloration of Ring-Neck Snakes (Diadophis punctatus)

SURC Ballroom B/C/D

Aposematic coloration is a common theme among many animals, both vertebrate and invertebrate. The bright and contrasting colors warn possible predators of distasteful and even poisonous compounds. The recognition of such warning signals has been shown within mammals, fishes, and avian and non-avian reptiles. For our study, we examined the efficacy of such possible warning coloration in a small, cryptic species of snake, the ring-neck snake (Diadophis punctatus). Ring-neck snakes are a trans-continental species that average less than 70 cm total length. Within the western United States, they are strongly associated with oak-pine woodland and along riparian zones in semi-arid habitats. When discovered by possible predators, ring-neck snakes are well known for revealing vibrant yellow or orange bellies, and for an upward curling of the bright red ventral surface of the tail. For our experiment, we used six types of clay models. The first three were green with alternating patterns of dots (i.e., no dots, single, or double row). The other type of model was bright orange with this same pattern of dots. Models, n=246, were placed in appropriate habitat where several species of birds might see them. After four to six days, models were gathered and scored for bite marks. Once scored, percentage of bit marks for each model type was determined. The percentages for the green models with varying patterns of dots are as follows: no dot, 34.6 percent; single row, 27.1 percent; and double row, 32.3 percent. The percentages for the orange models with varying patterns of dots are as follows: no dot, 2.3 percent; single row, 0.8 percent; and double row, 3 percent. These data show a greater percentage of bite marks in green models compared to orange models, pointing to the conclusion that there is avian recognition of aposematic warning coloration in D. Punctatus.