Post-bite Elevation in Tongue-flick Rate by Neonatal Garter Snakes (Thamnophis radix)


  • William E. Cooper Jr.

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Biological Sciences, Indiana University Purdue University, Fort Wayne
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      Cooper, W. E., Jr. 1992: Post-bite elevation in tongue-flick rate by neonatal garter snakes (Thamnophis radix). Ethology 91, 339–345.

Department of Biology, Indiana University Purdue University at Fort Wayne, Fort Wayne, Indiana 46805–1499, USA.


A post-biting elevation in tongue-flicking rate was demonstrated experimentally in neonatal, ingestively naive garter snakes (Thamnophis radix). That the snakes also exhibited apparent searching movements suggests that strike-induced chemosensory searching occurs in nonvenomous snakes lacking previous experience with food or prey chemicals. Two litters of neonates differed in numbers of tongue-flicks emitted, but had similar relative magnitudes of response across experimental conditions. The existence of post-bite elevation in tongue-flick rate (and presumably strike-induced chemosensory searching) argues for a genetic basis for these chemosensory behaviors in a nonvenomous species of snake, extending the recent finding that strike-induced chemosensory searching is fully developed in ingestively naive neonatal rattlesnakes. Possible patterns of evolution of post-bite elevation in tongue-flick rate, and the strike-release-trail strategy of highly venomous snakes are discussed.