Growth Rates and Prey-Handling Behavior of Hatchling Corn Snakes Pantherophis guttatus (Colubridae)
Penning, David A.
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Effects of prey mass on growth (length, girth, and mass) and prey-handling behavior of 18 hatchling corn snakes (Pantherophis guttatus) were studied in a laboratory setting. Hatchlings were randomly assigned to one of two mutually exclusive mass-ratio feeding categories of house mice (Mus musculus). The small category consisted of a prey mass ratio of 20-40% snake mass, the large category, 41-60% snake mass. The effects of prey mass on the following factors were examined: growth rates, time to begin prey-handling, capture position, prey-handling method, lateralization side dominance (handedness), time to subdue, condition of prey at ingestion, time to ingest, total feeding duration, and failure rates. Growth rates of P. guttatus were not significantly different between the small and large mass-ratio feeding categories. Snake length, mass, and girth were significantly correlated with one another. Results indicated that prey mass significantly impacted various aspects of hatchling P. guttatus prey-handling behaviors. Time to begin prey-handling, subdue, ingest, and total feeding duration were longer in the large category. Snakes in both categories tended to capture and ingest prey more frequently by the anterior end with the large category doing so more frequently than the small category. As prey mass increased in both categories, so did the frequency of dominant prey-handling behavior. Smaller prey were simply seized while larger prey were constricted. Handedness was not significantly different between the two categories. As prey mass increased during the study, so did the tendency for prey to be killed before ingestion as well as increased failure rates.