Midwinter emergence in hibernating timber rattlesnakes (Crotalus horridus)

Nordberg, Eric J., and Cobb, Vincent A. (2016) Midwinter emergence in hibernating timber rattlesnakes (Crotalus horridus). Journal of Herpetology, 50 (2). pp. 203-208.

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Abstract

Hibernation is an important behavioral event in temperate-region reptiles for escaping periods of harsh winter temperatures. Generally considered a dormant period, observations of winter activity suggest that hibernating reptiles may be more active than initially thought. To examine winter activity in a species that commonly hibernates, Timber Rattlesnakes (Crotalus horridus), we monitored the detailed movements and body temperatures (T(b)s) of free-ranging snakes over two winters. Hourly T(b)s and movements of snakes throughout a five-month hibernation period were monitored for midwinter activity and potential thermoregulatory behavior. Environmental temperatures and snake operative temperatures were used to estimate time periods when snakes were at or on the surface. Visual observations of snakes basking on the surface were uncommon; however, hourly recorded snake T(b)s revealed that 69% of the snakes emerged to the surface to bask two or more times for a total of 60 emergence events from 14 individuals. Snake T(b)s (N = 53,041) during hibernation were 11.1 +/- 3.5 degrees C (mean +/- SD) and ranged from 1.1-33.7 degrees C. Counter to our prediction, calculated estimates of metabolic expenditure associated with increasing T-b (via basking or surface emergence) during hibernation had little effect on the total energy budget required to survive winter. Additional metabolic expenditure attributable to multiple basking events (e.g., 10 basking events) can be offset by acquiring as little as 1.0 g of rodent during the active season.

Item ID: 45466
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1937-2418
Funders: Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU)
Date Deposited: 27 Jul 2016 07:42
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0608 Zoology > 060801 Animal Behaviour @ 100%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970106 Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences @ 70%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960806 Forest and Woodlands Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 30%
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