Diadophis tail defense

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Zach_Lim
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Diadophis tail defense

Post by Zach_Lim » April 23rd, 2013, 1:11 pm

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I have always wondered what the Diadophis "cork-screwing" tail did in terms of defense.

Any thoughts?

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AndyO'Connor
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Re: Diadophis tail defense

Post by AndyO'Connor » April 23rd, 2013, 2:34 pm

I believe it's the flash of color, they usually are opening their vent also making a stink, and it may also be similar to rubber boas, bite this and not my real head?

Zach_Lim
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Re: Diadophis tail defense

Post by Zach_Lim » April 23rd, 2013, 2:35 pm

AndyO'Connor wrote:I believe it's the flash of color, they usually are opening their vent also making a stink, and it may also be similar to rubber boas, bite this and not my real head?
Exactly what I was thinking, leaning towards the vibrant flash of color.

Thanks!

Robert Hansen
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Re: Diadophis tail defense

Post by Robert Hansen » April 23rd, 2013, 10:12 pm

This is an example of aposematic (warning) coloration that strongly contrasts with the rather drab dorsal color of ringneck snakes, potentially creating a startle effect in a predator. If this momentarily halts a predation attempt, this might allow the snake to escape. Then throw in some nasty musk action for good measure. It's unlikely that the tail coiling function is similar to that of rubber boas (in which the blunt tail is elevated and can be mistaken for the head, and thus attacked), given that it's rare to find ringneck snakes with obvious tail damage, a phenomenon observed frequently in adult boas.

Interestingly, tail coiling is not universal across the range of Diadophis, but appears to be a fixed behavior in red-bellied forms.

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regalringneck
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Re: Diadophis tail defense

Post by regalringneck » April 24th, 2013, 4:41 am

... indeed it is a most interesting aspect to these snakes. I've always wanted to observe how a color sensitive predator such as a bird or collared lizard might react to this display, but as yet have not conducted the experiments. Theres a book out in print by Rossi I believe that gives an interesting acct of a captive long nosed snake consuming a florida ringneck (tailcoiler) and the result being the Rhino died and the next am the ringneck was crawling about. Thus I suspect the tailcoilers are inclined to bite the mouth linings of would be predators.
The venom of regalis on cold blooded prey works as fast or faster than coralsnakes, (see herptoculture subforum on necropsies for a visual) so the deterrence factor appears to be there. The drooling often seen in freshly captured ringnecks may very well be them preparing to give the kiss of death!
The very similar tail coiling in the elapid; Calliophis is possibly convergence, but furthur indicates to me the likely elaps origins of Diadophis. Interesting too, is how quickly w/c regalis stop exhibiting this warning, I rarely get more than 2 or 3 full on displays if i choose to keep a wild specimen.
A final conundrum is the non tail coiling northerns which I have no experience w/ are reportedly much more prone to try to bite when handled than are their southern redtailed cousins, who apparently wait for their shot ...

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