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A chart of the volume of air in two different garter snakes lungs.
Mean volume fo air in lungs of two female garter snakes, Thamnophis sirtalis parietali, before and during courtship by several males (Recreated from Shine, Langkilde,&Mason 2003). The graph shows that females being courted by males lose a significant amount of air in their lungs during courtship. This loss of air is thought to be caused by the males in order to forcibly inseminate the female.

Discussion questions

  1. Why would mimicking a brightly colored venomous species not be entirely beneficial?
  2. Why would a venomous species mimic another species that is less venomous?
  3. How would wriggling one’s tail help attract prey to eat?
  4. What costs and benefits are likely to exist for having a tail that is more conspicuous than the rest of a snake’s body?

    A green snake.


  • Aggressive Mimicry - Having a similar appearance or behavior to another species which increases the ability of the individual to acquire food or other resources.
  • Batesian Mimicry - Having a similar appearance or behavior to another species that is dangerous or unpalatable which decreases the individual's likelihood of being preyed upon, even if it doesn't have the trait that coincides with the mimicked trait.
  • Caudal Luring - A form of aggressive mimicry in which a snake or lizard wiggles its tail to look like an insect larvae or worm in order to attract prey.
  • Cloaca - The orifice near a snake's tail used for excretion of feces and urine as well as for mating.
  • Competitive Mimicry - Having a similar appearance or behavior to another species in order to better access or defend resources.
  • Defensive Mimicry - Having a similar appearance or behavior to another species which decreases the chance of an individual being attacked by a predator.
  • Sexual Mimicry - Having a similar appearance or behavior to the opposite sex or another species in order to increase the individual's likelihood of mating.
  • Fitness : An individual's ability to pass their genes on to the next generation.
  • Gene - An amount of DNA such that it is likely to be inherited intact by the next generation during reproduction.
  • Lingual Luring - A form of aggressive mimicry in which an individual flicks its tongue against the surface of a body of water to simulate a small insect in order to attract prey.
  • Mertensian Mimicry - Having a similar appearance or behavior to another species that is less dangerous than the individual because the predators learn not to attack organisms with that trait from the non-lethal species.
  • Mimicry - Having a similar appearance or behavior to another individual which increases an organism's fitness in some way because it is mistaken for the individual being mimicked.
  • Mullerian Mimicry - Mutual mimicry between two or more unpalatable species which decreases any given individual's likelihood of being the 'mistake' a predator learns to avoid the shared trait from.
  • Native Range - The area in which a given species is known to naturally occur.
  • Olfactory Mimicry - Having a similar smell to an individual of another species or another object in order to attract pollinators or possibly to repel predators
  • Reproductive Success - The number of an individual's genes passed on during reproduction to offspring that have the ability to reproduce.


  • Barun A, Perry G, Henderson RW, Powell R. 2007a. Alsophis portoricensis anegadae (Squamata: Colubridae): Morphometric Characteristics, Activity Patterns, and Habitat Use. Copeia. 2007(1): 93-100

    This article is used to point out some of the apparent costs of caudal luring.

  • Beckers GJL, Leenders TAAM, Strijbosch H. 1996a. Coral Snake Mimicry: Live Snakes Not Avoided by a Mammalian Predator. Oecologia. 106 (4): 461-463

    This article discusses the function of brightly colored bands in supposed coral snake mimics and whether or not this can be considered true Batesian mimicry.

  • Czalpicki JA, Porter RH, Wilcoxon HC. 1975. Olfactory Mimicry Involving Garter Snakes and Artificial Models and Mimics. Behaviour. 54: 60-71

  • Downes SJ. 2002. Size-dependent predation by snakes: selective foraging or differential prey vulnerability? Behavioral Ecology. 13 (4): 551-560

  • Edgren RA, Edgren MK. 1955. Experiments on Bluffing and Death-Feigning in the Hognose Snake Heterodon platyrhinos. Copeia. 1955(1): 2-4

    Early paper about mimicking dangerous snakes by hissing and striking as well as feigning death in eastern hognose snakes.

  • Hagman M, Phillips BL, Shine R. 2008a. Tails of enticement: caudal luring by an ambush foraging snake (Acanthophis praelongus, Elapidae). Functional Ecology. 22: 1134-1139

  • Hayes WK, Lavin-Murcio P, Kardong KV. 1995. Northern Pacific Rattlesnakes (Crotalus viridis oreganus) Meter Venom When Feeding on Prey of Different Sizes. Copiea. 1995 (2): 337-343

    Provides evidence that Rattlesnakes can control amount of venom used per bite. Used to show evidence that rattlesnakes can inject non-lethal amounts of venom and therefore be the base species to a Batesian mimicry system.

  • Herrera OS, Smith HM, Chiszar D. 1981. Another Suggested Case of Ophidian Deceptive Mimicry. Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science. 84 (3): 121- 127

    Suggests mimicry of rattlesnakes by bull snakes, keeping in mind that similar appearances and behaviors may stem from having similar environmental pressures.

  • Milius S. 2006a. Why Play Dead? Science News. 170 (18): 280-281

    This article explains why animals like the hognose snake would want to feign death, with new possible reasons besides the well known ones.

  • Munyer EA. 1967. Behavior of an Eastern Hognose Snake, Heterodon platyrhinos, in Water. Copeia. 1967(3): 668-670

    Another article on feigning death in hognose snakes. Used to show that when flipped upright, the snake will often flip back over even though this makes it seem less dead.

  • Murphy JB, Carpenter CC, Gillingham JC. 1978. Caudal Luring in the Green Tree Python, Chondropython viridis (Reptilia, Serpentes, Boidae). Journal of Herpetology. 12 (1): 117-119

  • Pasteur G. 1982. A Classificatory Review of Mimicry Systems. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics. 13: 169-199

  • Rabatsky AM, Farrell TM. 1996b. The Effects of Age and Light Level on Foraging Posture and Frequency of Caudal Luring in the Rattlesnake, Sistrurus miliarius barbouri. Journal of Herpetology. 30 (4): 558-561

    Discusses how younger snakes are more likely to use caudal luring to ambush food than older ones.

  • Rabatsky AM, Waterman JM. 2005. Ontogenetic Shifts and Sex Differences in Caudal Luring in the Dusky Pygmy Rattlesnake, Sistrurus miliarius barbouri. Herpetologica. 61 (2): 87-91

    Suggests that longer tails in sexually dimorphic species can cause an increased success rate from caudal luring for the larger sex.

  • Rainey MM, Grether GF. 2007b. Competitive Mimicry: Synthesis of a Neglected Class of Mimetic Relationships. Ecology. 88 (10): 2440-2448

  • Reiserer RS, Schuett GW. 2008b. Aggressive mimicry in neonates of the sidewinder rattlesnake, Crotalus cerastes (Serpentes: Viperidae): stimulus control and visual perception of prey luring. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society. 95: 81-91

  • Sanders KL, Malhotra A, Thorpe RS. 2006b. Evidence for a Mullerian Mimetic Radiation in Asian Pitvipers. Proceedings: Biological Sciences. 273 (1590): 1135-1141

    Suggests that pitvipers in southeast asia have similar markings even when in different habitats because of Mullerian Mimicry. Used as a source for Mullerian mimicry data as well as example species for Mullerian mimicry besides coral snake patterned snakes.

  • Sazima I. 1991. Caudal Luring in Two Neotropical Pitvipers, Bothrops jararaca and B. jararacussu. Copeia. 1991 (1): 245-248

  • Sazima I, Puorto G. 1993. Feeding Technique of Juvenile Tropidodryas striaticeps: Probable Caudal Luring in a Colubrid Snake. Copeia. 1993 (1): 222-226

  • Shine R, Langkilde T, Mason RT. 2003. Cryptic Forcible Insemination: Male Snakes Exploit Female Physiology, Anatomy, and Behavior to Obtain Coercive Matings. The American Naturalist. 162 (5): 653-667

    Male garter snakes mimic females in order to increase chances of mating.

  • Shine R, O’Connor D, Mason RT. 2000a. Female Mimicry in Garter Snakes: Behavioral tactics of “she-males” and the males that court them. Canadian Journal of Zoology. 78 (8): 1391-1396

    An in-depth look at the behavior of female mimicry in garter snakes.

  • Tiebout HM. 1997. Caudal Luring by a Temperate Colubrid Snake, Elaphe obsoleta, and Its Implications for the Evolution of the Rattle among Rattlesnakes. Journal of Herpetology. 31 (2): 290-292

    Found another Colubrid snake that exhibits caudal luring and discusses how this negatively affects the hypothesis that rattlesnake rattles were evolved from a tail segment meant to aid in caudal luring instead of from a small hardened tail tip for shaking substrate.

  • Welsh HH, Lind AJ. 2000b. Evidence of Lingual-Luring by an Aquatic Snake. Journal of Herpetology. 34 (1): 67-74

    Provides evidence that some aquatic species of snakes practice lingual-luring, a type of aggressive feeding mimicry that is employed by some birds and other aquatic reptiles.

  • Wickler W. 1968. Mimicry in Plants and Animals. New York: McGraw-Hill

    A broad overview of different forms of mimicry described by 1968, useful for background information.

  • Wüster W, et al. 2004. Do Aposematism and Batesian Mimicry Require Bright Colours? A Test, Using European Viper Markings. Proceedings: Biological Sciences. 271 (1556): 2495-2499

    Gives evidence that while Batesian mimicry is generally associated with bright warning colors, there is a decrease in predator attacks on non-venomous species that mimic venomous snakes lacking bright warning colors.


All photo images (except for figure number 9 which was taken by the author) are subject to the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license where they can be used and redistributed by anyone as long as they are attributed to the original author/creator. See complete rules/details here: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Attributions are in the caption for each image and full links to their source can be found below.

  • Eastern Coral snake, Micrurus fulvius, By snakecollector: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8373783@N07/2562524532/in/photostream/
  • King snake, Lampropeltis sp, By *~Dawn~*: http://www.flickr.com/photos/naturesdawn/4111830224/
  • Bull Snake, Pituophis catenifer sayi, By Lady Shmee: http://www.flickr.com/photos/medusasnail/3090855675/
  • Hognose Snake, Heterodon sp, By Benimoto: http://www.flickr.com/photos/benimoto/2788651836/
  • Two-striped Garter snake, Thamnophis hammondii, By rmceoin: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rmceoin/3207412781/


portrait of the author

Michael Schiff is currently a junior working towards a Bachelor of Science degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Rice University. He was born in Los Angeles, CA but raised in Las Vegas, NV. Michael spent the first two years of college at the University of Arizona, where as a freshman he studied for a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering, but quickly switched to Environmental Biology because engineering was too focused on the business side of science and bored him compared to his lifelong fondness for the natural and life sciences. He also found a severe dislike for calculus and physics, which would be essential to an engineering career. After receiving his degree, Michael hopes to move on to a career in either animal keeping and enrichment or environmental consulting for at least a few years before possibly attending graduate school. His hobbies include visiting zoos, computer games, and archery.

Questions & Answers

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Eke Reply
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Missy Reply
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Lale Reply
no can't
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where we get a research paper on Nano chemistry....?
Maira Reply
nanopartical of organic/inorganic / physical chemistry , pdf / thesis / review
what are the products of Nano chemistry?
Maira Reply
There are lots of products of nano chemistry... Like nano coatings.....carbon fiber.. And lots of others..
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no nanotechnology is also a part of physics and maths it requires angle formulas and some pressure regarding concepts
Preparation and Applications of Nanomaterial for Drug Delivery
Hafiz Reply
Application of nanotechnology in medicine
has a lot of application modern world
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Crow Reply
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RAW Reply
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yes that's correct
I think
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nanocopper obvius
what is the stm
Brian Reply
is there industrial application of fullrenes. What is the method to prepare fullrene on large scale.?
industrial application...? mmm I think on the medical side as drug carrier, but you should go deeper on your research, I may be wrong
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what is a peer
What is meant by 'nano scale'?
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scanning tunneling microscope
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Do u think that Graphene and Fullrene fiber can be used to make Air Plane body structure the lightest and strongest. Rafiq
what is differents between GO and RGO?
what is simplest way to understand the applications of nano robots used to detect the cancer affected cell of human body.? How this robot is carried to required site of body cell.? what will be the carrier material and how can be detected that correct delivery of drug is done Rafiq
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Any one who tell me about Preparation and application of Nanomaterial for drug Delivery
what is Nano technology ?
Bob Reply
write examples of Nano molecule?
The nanotechnology is as new science, to scale nanometric
nanotechnology is the study, desing, synthesis, manipulation and application of materials and functional systems through control of matter at nanoscale
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Source:  OpenStax, Mockingbird tales: readings in animal behavior. OpenStax CNX. Jan 12, 2011 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11211/1.5
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