Snakes that exhibit caudal luring typically have a conspicuously colored tail tip. We conducted a field experiment to test the adaptive significance of tail color. A sample of 169 neonate Pigmy Rattlesnakes (Sistrurus miliarius) was treated by coloring their yellow tails with either black pigment similar to their cryptic body color or yellow ink as a procedural control. Snakes were released and recaptured over the next three months. Tail color manipulation did not significantly influence the proportion of snakes with palpable food. Also, the treatments did not affect growth in SVL or mass. These findings suggest that snakes with cryptic tails did not experience reduced prey capture. The presence of conspicuous tail coloration in this species may be explained by phylogenic inertia, selective benefits of small magnitude, or by habitat-related differences in prey composition or abundance.
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Vol. 45 • No. 3