Evolution of snake courtship and combat behavior

September 24, 2014, Public Library of Science

A small study suggests snakes may have developed courtship and male-to-male combat behavior, such as moving undulations, neck biting, and spur-poking, over time, according to a study published September 24, 2014 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Phil Senter from Fayetteville State University and colleagues.

Behaviors involved in courtship and male-to-male combat have been recorded in over 70 snake species from five families in the clade Boidae and Colubroidea, but before now, scientists had yet to look for evolutionary relationships between these behaviors. The authors of this study analyzed 33 courtship and male-to-male combat behaviors in the scientific literature by plotting them to a phylogenetic tree to identify patterns. The authors identified the patterns in behaviors, which was not always possible, and then used the fossil record to match the behaviors to the snakes' evolution.

Researchers found that male-to-male combat of common ancestors of Boidae and Colubridae in the Late Cretaceous likely involved combatants raising the head and neck, attempting to topple each other. Poking with spurs may have been added in the Boidae clade. In the Lampropeltini clade, the toppling was replaced by coiling without neck-raising, and body-bridging was added. Snake courtship likely involved rubbing with spurs in Boidae. In Colubroidea, courtship ancestrally involved chin-rubbing and head- or body-jerking. Various colubroid clades subsequently added other behaviors, like moving undulations in Natricinae and Lampropeltini, coital biting in the Eurasian ratsnake clade, and tail quivering in Pantherophis. Although many gaps in the evolution of and combat in snakes remain, this study provides a first step in reconstructing the evolution of these behaviors in .

Explore further: Vision stimulates courtship calls in the grey tree frog

More information: Senter P, Harris SM, Kent DL (2014) Phylogeny of Courtship and Male-Male Combat Behavior in Snakes. PLoS ONE 9(9): e107528. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0107528

Related Stories

Vision stimulates courtship calls in the grey tree frog

November 19, 2012

Male tree frogs like to 'see what they're getting' when they select females for mating, according to a new study by Dr. Michael Reichert from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in the US. His work, which is one of the ...

Shudder action buys time for male spider from being killed

December 20, 2013

(Phys.org) —Stated in scholarly terms, a newly published study says research results suggest that "male web-building spiders employ a phylogenetically conserved vibratory signal to ameliorate the risk of pre-copulatory ...

Female cowbirds prefer less intense male courtship displays

May 3, 2012

In most species, females prefer the most intense courtship display males can muster, but a new study finds that female cowbirds actually prefer less intense displays. The full results are published May 2 in the open access ...

Males produce faster sperm for sisters

May 7, 2014

(Phys.org) —Mating with relatives, or inbreeding, can be costly to both sexes, and in many species males and females avoid mating with siblings.  However, the latest research adds a twist to this story by showing that ...

Recommended for you

Fungus senses gravity using gene borrowed from bacteria

April 24, 2018

The pin mold fungus Phycomyces blakesleeanus forms a dense forest of vertically growing fruiting bodies, but how does it know which way is "up"? New research publishing 24 April in the open access journal PLOS Biology, from ...

Team discovers a new take on early evolution of photosynthesis

April 24, 2018

A team of scientists from Arizona State University's School of Molecular Sciences has begun re-thinking the evolutionary history of photochemical reaction centers (RCs). Their analysis was recently published online in Photosynthesis ...

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.