EFFECTS OF SEX, ENVIRONMENT, AND CONDITION ON THE MUSKING BEHAVIOR OF SYMPATRIC GARTERSNAKES (THAMNOPHIS SPP.)
Keywords:antipredator behavior, body condition, gartersnake, musking, predation, Thamnophis elegans, Thamnophis radix, urbanization
Despite an abundance of studies documenting antipredator and defensive behaviors of gartersnakes (genus Thamnophis), few have quantitatively examined musking, a widely utilized antipredator tactic. In this study we quantify musking behaviors in the Terrestrial Gartersnake (Thamnophis elegans) and the Plains Gartersnake (T. radix) when hand-captured at four sites in and near Denver, Colorado, USA. Overall, Plains Gartersnakes musked significantly more often than Terrestrial Gartersnakes. Female Terrestrial Gartersnakes musked more frequently than males, a pattern not evident in the Plains Gartersnake. Additionally, we observed a positive correlation in body condition and musking propensity in Terrestrial Gartersnakes, suggesting resource-dependent behavior in this species. Musking behavior was consistent across variations in predation pressure, environmental conditions, and snake body size, all factors shown to influence other gartersnake defensive behaviors. These results corroborate other research which demonstrates that snake antipredator behaviors are determined by complex interactions of abiotic and biotic factors.
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