Wildlife Research Wildlife Research Society
Ecology, management and conservation in natural and modified habitats
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Temporal dynamics of emergence and dispersal of garter snakes from a communal den in Manitoba

R. Shine A C , T. Langkilde A , M. Wall A and R. T. Mason B

A School of Biological Sciences A08, University of Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia.

B Department of Zoology, Oregon State University, Cordley Hall 3029, Corvallis, OR 97331-2914, USA.

C Corresponding author. Email: rics@bio.usyd.edu.au

Wildlife Research 33(2) 103-111 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/WR05030
Submitted: 24 March 2005  Accepted: 9 January 2006   Published: 12 April 2006

Abstract

Although garter snakes at communal overwintering dens on the Canadian prairies have attracted considerable behavioural ecology research, previous studies have relied upon sampling of active animals to describe broad patterns of distribution and abundance of snakes within the den population. We conducted a mark–recapture study to directly quantify temporal and spatial variation in the phenotypic traits (sex, size, body condition) of snakes at the den itself, and those dispersing through woodland 50 m away. Captures of 909 snakes on the days they emerged, and 6653 snakes as they dispersed, revealed massive spatiotemporal heterogeneity in phenotypic traits among samples. Day-to-day variation in weather conditions affected numbers and sex ratios of emerging and dispersing snakes; for example, small females dispersed in greater numbers after unusually cold nights, when harassment by courting males was reduced. Most snakes stayed at the den only briefly (<5 days) prior to dispersal, so that sampling at the den itself (the only evidence available from most previous studies) underestimates the number of animals in the population, as well as the proportions of females, of small adult males and of juvenile animals. Overall, the heterogeneous and temporally dynamic distributions of phenotypic traits (such as sex and size) among our samples are predictable on the basis of the central roles of male–male competition and sexual conflict in the mating system of these snakes. Surprisingly, however, many of the snakes that overwinter at this den play no part in den-based breeding aggregations


References

Davies N. B. Lundberg A. 1984 Food distribution and a variable mating system in the dunnock Prunella modularis. Journal of Animal Ecology 53 895 912

Fitch H. S. (1987). Collecting and life-history techniques. In ‘Snakes: Ecology and Evolutionary Biology’. (Eds R. A. Seigel, J. T. Collins, and S. S. Novak.) pp. 143–164. (Macmillan: New York.)

Frazer G. W., Canham C. D., and Lertzman K. P. (1999). ‘Gap Light Analyzer (GLA), Version 2.0: Imaging Software to Extract Canopy Structure and Gap Light Transmission Indices from True-color Fisheye Photographs. Users Manual and Program documentation.’ (Simon Fraser University: Burnaby, BC, Canada.)

Gregory P. T. 1974 Patterns of spring emergence of the red-sided garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis parietalis) in the Interlake region of Manitoba. Canadian Journal of Zoology 52 1063 1069


Gregory P. T. Stewart K. W. 1975 Long-distance dispersal and feeding strategy of the red-sided garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis parietalis) in the Interlake of Manitoba. Canadian Journal of Zoology 53 238 245


Harper D. 1986 Models of harem formation. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 1 141
DOI

Jarman P. J. 1983 Mating system and sexual dimorphism in large, terrestrial mammalian herbivores. Biological Reviews 58 1 36

Le Bouef B. J. 1974 Male–male competition and reproductive success in elephant seals. American Zoologist 14 163 176

Mason R. T. 1993 Chemical ecology of the red-sided garter snake, Thamnophis sirtalis parietalis. Brain, Behavior and Evolution 41 261 268


Mason R. T. Crews D. 1985 Female mimicry in garter snakes. Nature 316 59 60
DOI

Payne R. B. 1984 Sexual selection, lek behavior, and sexual size dimorphism in birds. Ornithological Monographs 33 1 52

Pfrender M. Mason R. T. Wilmslow J. T. Shine R. 2001 Thamnophis sirtalis parietalis (red-sided gartersnake). Male–male copulation. Herpetological Review 32 52


Rossman D. A., Ford N. B., and Seigel R. A. (1996). ‘The Garter Snakes. Evolution and Ecology.’ (University of Oklahoma Press: Norman, OK.)

Shine R. Harlow P. S. LeMaster M. P. Moore I. Mason R. T. 2000 a The transvestite serpent: why do male gartersnakes court (some) other males? Animal Behaviour 59 349 359
DOI

Shine R. O’Connor D. Mason R. T. 2000 b Female mimicry in gartersnakes: behavioural tactics of ‘she-males’ and the males that court them. Canadian Journal of Zoology 78 1391 1396 DOI

Shine R. O’Connor D. Mason R. T. 2000 c Sexual conflict in the snake den. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 48 392 401 DOI

Shine R. Olsson M. M. Mason R. T. 2000 d Chastity belts in gartersnakes: the functional significance of mating plugs. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 70 377 390 DOI

Shine R. Elphick M. J. Harlow P. S. Moore I. T. LeMaster M. P. Mason R. T. 2001 a Movements, mating and dispersal of red-sided gartersnakes from a communal den in Manitoba. Copeia 2001 82 91

Shine R. LeMaster M. P. Moore I. T. Olsson M. M. Mason R. T. 2001 b Bumpus in the snake den: effects of sex, size, and body condition on mortality of red-sided garter snakes. Evolution 55 598 604


Shine R. Langkilde T. Mason R. T. 2003 a Cryptic forcible insemination: male snakes exploit female physiology, anatomy, and behavior to obtain coercive matings. American Naturalist 162 653 667
DOI

Shine R. Langkilde T. Mason R. T. 2003 b The opportunistic serpent: male garter snakes adjust courtship tactics to mating opportunities. Behaviour 140 1509 1526 DOI

Shine R. Phillips B. Waye H. Mason R. T. 2003 c Behavioral shifts associated with reproduction in garter snakes. Behavioral Ecology 14 251 256 DOI

Shine R. Phillips B. Langkilde T. Lutterschmidt D. I. Waye H. Mason R. T. 2004 Mechanisms and consequences of sexual conflict in garter snakes (Thamnophis sirtalis, Colubridae). Behavioral Ecology 15 654 660 DOI

Shine R. Langkilde T. Wall M. Mason R. T. 2005 Alternative male mating tactics in garter snakes. Animal Behaviour 70 387 396 DOI

Verner J. Willson M. F. 1966 The influence of habitats on mating systems of North American passerine birds. Ecology 47 143 147

Whittier J. M. Mason R. T. Crews D. 1985 Mating in the red-sided gartersnakes, Thamnophis sirtalis parietalis: differential effects on male and female sexual behavior. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 16 257 261
DOI

Wikelski M. Carbone C. Trillmich F. 1996 Lekking in marine iguanas: female grouping and male reproductive strategies. Animal Behaviour 52 581 596 DOI



Export Citation