Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Nagas in the News: Snake Cannibalism

Rattlesnake (Crotalus polystictus) in Mexico. Researchers found that many of mother rattlesnakes will eat dead offspring for energy. (Estrella MociƱo/SINC).

Every mom knows that pregnancy and birth really sap your energy. To get some back, many rattlesnake mothers will eat some of their non-surviving offspring, a new study finds.

This postpartum cannibalism helps the mother regain strength for her next reproductive effort, researchers report.

A lack of information on cannibalism in rattlesnakes prompted a group of Spanish, American and Mexican researchers to begin a study in 2004 that monitored cannibalistic behavior in 190 female pitvipers (Crotalus polystictus) found in central Mexico, where the species is endemic. The snakes had a combined total of 239 clutches of eggs over the study period.

The researchers found that on average, the mother snakes ate about 11 percent of their postpartum mass — particularly eggs and dead offspring — to regain energy. More>>

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