Death feigning by grass snakes (Natrix natrix) in response to handling by human "predators"

Griffiths, R.A. and Gregory, P.T. and Isaac, L.A. (2007) Death feigning by grass snakes (Natrix natrix) in response to handling by human "predators". Journal of Comparative Psychology, 121 (2). pp. 123-129. ISSN 0735-7036. (Access to this publication is restricted)

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Abstract

Death feigning, a variant of tonic immobility, is usually interpreted as a last-resort antipredator measure. The authors describe death feigning in grass snakes (Natrix natrix) and test some of its potential correlates. Death feigning was seen in 66% of wild-caught snakes but was not seen in hatchlings from laboratory-incubated eggs. Minimal indication of death feigning was mouth gaping, often with the tongue hanging free, but more dramatic cases involved voluntary supination and/or lack of muscle tone. Aside from hatchlings, which did not feign death, there was little variation in frequency or intensity of death feigning with body size. There was no effect of body temperature on death feigning nor were snakes that were moving when caught less likely to feign death than those that were not moving. Interpretation of the adaptive value of death feigning in grass snakes or in other animals is hampered by lack of evidence of this behavior in the field in response to natural predators.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled keywords: snakes; death feigning; tonic immobility; antipredator behavior
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
Divisions: Faculties > Social Sciences > School of Anthropology and Conservation > Biodiversity Conservation Group
Faculties > Social Sciences > School of Anthropology and Conservation > DICE (Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology)
Depositing User: Stephen Holland
Date Deposited: 19 Dec 2007 18:56
Last Modified: 05 Sep 2011 23:23
Resource URI: http://kar.kent.ac.uk/id/eprint/1422 (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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