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1 August 2008 Exploring Hypotheses about the Loss of the Rattle in Rattlesnakes: How Arboreal Is the Isla Santa Catalina Rattleless Rattlesnake, Crotalus catalinensis?
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Abstract

Rattle loss in the Isla Santa Catalina (Baja California Sur, México) rattlesnake, Crotalus catalinensis, was hypothesized to be a stealth adaptation for hunting for birds within the vegetation. Recently, however, it was shown that birds are rarely captured by C. catalinensis, while a semi-arboreal mouse is very important in its diet. It was thus suggested that the loss of the rattle could be a stealth adaptation for hunting for mice within the vegetation. But both these hypotheses imply a high degree of arboreality in C. catalinensis, and there is no detailed study on microhabitat use in this species. Here we use field data recently obtained (2005 to 2008) to test the hypothesis of a high degree of arboreality in C. catalinensis. During nine visits to Isla Santa Catalina we searched for snakes in suitable habitats. Of 92 observations in which the snakes were exposed, in seven occasions (7.6%) they were on the vegetation. There was no difference between sexes or between young and adult snakes in the frequency of use of vegetation. Thus, C. catalinensis is a primarily terrestrial rattlesnake which uses the vegetation only occasionally, similar to its sister species Crotalus ruber. Results of a previous phase of our studies at Isla Santa Catalina are similar to those presented herein. These results make the hypothesis of the loss of the rattle as a stealth adaptation for hunting on the vegetation very unlikely, since such a low frequency of use of vegetation may not function as a selective agent that could lead to an adaptive loss of the rattle.

Marcio Martins, Gustavo Arnaud, and Rosalva Murillo-Quero "Exploring Hypotheses about the Loss of the Rattle in Rattlesnakes: How Arboreal Is the Isla Santa Catalina Rattleless Rattlesnake, Crotalus catalinensis?," South American Journal of Herpetology 3(2), 162-167, (1 August 2008). https://doi.org/10.2994/1808-9798(2008)3[162:EHATLO]2.0.CO;2
Received: 4 March 2008; Accepted: 1 May 2008; Published: 1 August 2008
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