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Rosy boas (Lichanura trivirgata) use chemical cues to identify female mice (Mus musculus) with litters of dependent young

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Laboratory studies focusing on the ability of squamate reptiles to discriminate among prey chemical cues have been the foundation for many important contributions in animal behaviour and ecology. In this study, we examined the ability of rosy boas (Lichanura trivirgata) to discriminate among several sources of prey chemicals. Because of the high frequency of neonatal mammals in the diet of erycine boas, we focused on chemical cues from female mice (Mus musculus) with and without litters of dependent young. We presented chemical stimuli on cotton-tipped applicators in one set of experiments; in a second set, we presented chemical cues as trails placed in an observation arena with test subjects. The cotton swab assays did not reveal a difference in response to prey chemical cues, but in the arena-based assays we found that snakes showed an attraction to chemical cues from female mice with litters of young. This attraction could be caused by either the feeding experiences of these individuals, an innate ability to recognize chemical cues from neonatal mammals, or both.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 2011

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