Snakes may be social animals, study suggests

Hyperaxion May 23, 2020

Snakes are generally considered to be solitary and cold creatures. However, a new study suggests that the relationship between them may, in fact, be more complex than previously thought.

The research was published in April in the scientific journal Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology. To study the behavior of these animals, scientists at Wilfrid Laurier University in Canada placed 40 snakes of the species Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis in a space with four shelters separated into groups of 10.

Snakes may be social animals, study suggests
Thamnophis sirtalis. (Credit: Judy Gallagher / Flickr).

For eight days, the team observed the behavior of these snakes. Twice a day, the positions of the snakes were recorded, the place was cleaned and the reptiles were placed in different places again.

In addition to the fact that snakes seem to actively seek out social interaction, they also routinely met with the same individuals. To better understand this behavior, scientists also tested the snakes’ personalities by assessing their “boldness”. Both individually and in groups, the team recorded the length of time that snakes ventured outside their safe shelters.

Some explored the area further, while others stayed in their shelter. These differences ended up impacting the way they interacted with each other, although even the most daring snakes succumbed a little to the so-called “group mentality” when grouped, spending about 94% of the time in their safe zones.

Although this study was carried out in the laboratory, the authors suspect that this social behavior also occurs in its natural habitat. Especially because it is probably advantageous: they can protect themselves from other prey and help retain heat and moisture.

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