Territorial defense by the Taiwanese Kukrisnake

April 20, 2011 by Deborah Braconnier report
The Taiwanese Kukrisnake. Image: robferblue/flickr

(PhysOrg.com) -- In a first documented case of territorial behavior by a species of snake, a team led by Wen-San Huang of Taiwan’s National Museum of Natural Science and Cornell University discuss the Kukrisnakes from Taiwan’s Orchid Island in a report published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

While territorial behavior is common in other reptiles, such as lizards, snakes normally rely on mobile food sources and rely on hunting. Once a meal is found, they move on. However, the Kukrisnakes of Orchid Island have found themselves a defendable source of food and they are standing their ground, especially the females.

Orchid Island is home to many turtle nesting grounds and those nests are where the snakes have set up camp so to speak. These nests contain upwards of 100 eggs which take two months to hatch. This provides the with a food source that can last weeks without going bad.

Researchers discovered it is usually the male snakes which find the nests first; however, if a female snake should happen upon the same nest, it is usually the female who wins out.

Kukrisnakes have very large blade-like teeth and are very aggressive. They also fend off attackers by raising their tail in order to mimic another head. Unfortunately for the male snake, the tail area also contains their manhood. Male Kukrisnakes, having what is called a hemipenis, or twin penis, also evert these to further confuse predators. Unfortunately, when fighting a female with large teeth, it appears these male snakes would rather give up the nests than risk injury and loss of reproductive function, even though by size they are much larger than their female counterparts.

Huang found however, if another female happened upon a nest already occupied by another female snake, they seem to stick together and share the contents of the nest.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.
The Taiwanese kukrisnake.

Explore further: Outback snake fossil indicates lizard link

More information: Territorial behavior in Taiwanese kukrisnakes (Oligodon formosanus), PNAS, Published online before print April 18, 2011, doi:10.1073/pnas.1101804108

Related Stories

Squirrels use snake scent

December 19, 2007

California ground squirrels and rock squirrels chew up rattlesnake skin and smear it on their fur to mask their scent from predators, according to a new study by researchers at UC Davis.

Why solitary reptiles lay eggs in communal nests

September 3, 2009

Reptiles are not known to be the most social of creatures. But when it comes to laying eggs, female reptiles can be remarkably communal, often laying their eggs in the nests of other females. New research in the September ...

Girl power: Female boa constrictor doesn't need a male

November 3, 2010

In a finding that upends decades of scientific theory on reptile reproduction, researchers at North Carolina State University have discovered that female boa constrictors can squeeze out babies without mating.

Recommended for you

Plastic in 99 percent of seabirds by 2050

August 31, 2015

Researchers from CSIRO and Imperial College London have assessed how widespread the threat of plastic is for the world's seabirds, including albatrosses, shearwaters and penguins, and found the majority of seabird species ...

Researchers unveil DNA-guided 3-D printing of human tissue

August 31, 2015

A UCSF-led team has developed a technique to build tiny models of human tissues, called organoids, more precisely than ever before using a process that turns human cells into a biological equivalent of LEGO bricks. These ...

Study shows female frogs susceptible to 'decoy effect'

August 28, 2015

(Phys.org)—A pair of researchers has found that female túngaras, frogs that live in parts of Mexico and Central and South America, appear to be susceptible to the "decoy effect." In their paper published in the journal ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.