RAUK - Archived Forum - The smell of fear

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The smell of fear:

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Vicar
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Joined: 02 Sep 2004
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Posted: 11 Oct 2004

Just saw an episode of O'Shea on TV where he mentioned venomous snakes tracking prey which had been envenomated. He said experiments had shown that the snake can track its venom scent, and hence differentiate crossed tracks and find the prey it bit.

It seems that may only be half the story !...Interesting article attached:

http://www.slic.wsu.edu/kkardong/htm/trailing.htm


Steve Langham - Chairman    
Surrey Amphibian & Reptile Group (SARG).
evilmike
Senior Member
Joined: 15 May 2004
No. of posts: 85


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Posted: 12 Oct 2004
thats what Adders do, let the prey wander off and die and then follows its victimby the scent saves the snake injurying itself trying subdue its prey they only bite for a spilt second, interesting stuff indeed i think if i remember correctly that the scent can attract competition for other Adders that then may result in a iam bigger than you standoff females usually win them being larger.
Mike Lister BSc hons Ecology & Env management
GemmaJF
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Joined: 25 Jan 2003
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Posted: 12 Oct 2004

Kelleway, L.G. 1982. Competition for mates and food items in Vipera berus. British Journal of Herpetology 6:225-230

Covers the bit about competition for food items. I'm sure I've heard mention that adder can differentiate the scent of an envenomated prey item and one that is not and this is how rivals are attracted.


Gemma Fairchild, Independent Ecological Consultant
Vicar
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Joined: 02 Sep 2004
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Posted: 12 Oct 2004
I think...the article above suggests that some snakes can differentiate the smell of a bitten prey, regardless of envenomation. Although it doesn't state any explicit conclusion, I assumed it was scenting some signature due to the stressed nature of the prey. Maybe some physiological reaction to increased adrenalin levels ??
Steve Langham - Chairman    
Surrey Amphibian & Reptile Group (SARG).
GemmaJF
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Joined: 25 Jan 2003
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Posted: 12 Oct 2004
Could be, if anyone has anything more up-to-date I would be interested to read it. A paper was recently published in the Journal of Chemical Ecology that suggests slow-worms use chemical cues in much more advanced ways than was previously thought. I've always thought reptiles are probably much more aware of chemical cues than we give them credit.
Gemma Fairchild, Independent Ecological Consultant
Robert V
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Joined: 06 Aug 2004
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Posted: 07 Nov 2004

 

So, if the theory proves to be accurate and snakes do have the ability to track by odours given off in chemical reactions, does it not then follow, that, the snakes can dintinguish individuals within their own species and identify them by scent if not sight??? R 


RobV
Robert V
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Joined: 06 Aug 2004
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Posted: 07 Nov 2004

 

 .....Further to this, I'm hoping that Gemma will be able to somehow place on here, a sequence of four photographs taken last year in early August (apologies for poor quality but at least you get the basic idea). The smaller snake that starts closer to the camera was a juvenile (definitely not sexually mature) and so the interaction between them must have been something other than just a 'mating instinct'. If this sequence shows a deliberate move to identify an individual by scent by both snakes (see how the adult has moved nearer the water in the last frame) I'll let you all decide......I know what I think. R


RobV
GemmaJF
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Posted: 07 Nov 2004

Rob, not received any piccies but I'll put them up when they are sent.

Gonzalo,A.,Cabido, B., Martin, J., and Lopez,P.2004. Detection and discrimination of conspecific scents by the anguid slow-worm (Anguis fragilis).J.Chemcial.Ecol, Vol.30, 8:1565-1573

may be of interested, the authors concluded that slow-worms 'probably' distinguish the scents of other males from their own and determine factors such as size and fitness to avoid confrontation, though suggest further research is needed.

I've observed adder that had lost spring confrontations re-investigate a mating pair, the second investigation always seemed shorter as if they knew the male and also knew he was not worth taking on.


Gemma Fairchild, Independent Ecological Consultant
Robert V
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Joined: 06 Aug 2004
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Posted: 08 Nov 2004

 

Thanks Gemma, I tried to send them last night but all of the attempts failed. i'll try one of them now, so please let me know if a). It comes through ok and b). They will be able to fit on the screen in a meaningful sequence. R 


RobV
GemmaJF
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Posted: 08 Nov 2004

 


Gemma Fairchild, Independent Ecological Consultant
GemmaJF
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Posted: 08 Nov 2004
Hi Rob, think that was the right order, if anyone is having trouble seeing the sequence let me know and I'll resize the first two pictures to match 3 and 4.
Gemma Fairchild, Independent Ecological Consultant
Robert V
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Joined: 06 Aug 2004
No. of posts: 717


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Posted: 08 Nov 2004

 

Thanks Gemma, I think, with a slide of the cursor, you could get the general idea eh? R


RobV
David Bird
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Joined: 17 Feb 2003
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Posted: 13 Nov 2004
There are a set of researchers in the U.S.A. that have spent their whole research life on Chemical cues, odours and post envenomation together with feeding behaviour in captivity and y mazes.

The paper to have a look at is Kardong,K.V & Smith,T.L. 2002 Proximate factors involved in Rattlesnake predatory behaviour: A review. in
"Biology of the Vipers" (Schuett, Hoggren, Douglas,Greene, eds.), Eagle
Mountain Publishing, 2002.
I t gives a list of 85 references mostly on Rattlesnakes but a few by Naulleau in the 1960's on Vipera aspis.

David
British Herpetological Society Librarian and member of B.H.S Conservation Committee. Self employed Herpetological Consultant and Field Worker.

- The smell of fear

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