Current Zoology(formerly Acta Zoologica Sinica), 2009, 55(4): 266 - 271
Heat, sight and scent: multiple cues influence foraging site selection by an ambush-foraging snake Hoplocephalus bungaroides (Elapidae)
Weiguo DU, Jonathan K. WEBB, Richard SHINE
B i o l o g i c a l S c i e n c e s , U n i v e r s i t y o f S y d n e y , N S W 2 0 0 6 A u s t r a l i a
Most mobile organisms respond to multiple cues when selecting habitat types, and laboratory experiments that manipulate only single cues may fail to reveal the true complexity of habitat-selection behaviour.In south-eastern Australia, broad-headed snakes Hoplocephalus bungaroides (Elapidae) lie in wait under sun-warmed rocks to ambush velvet geckos Oedura leseuerii (Gekkonidae).Previous laboratory work has shown that both the geckos and the snakes actively select hotter rather than colder rocks, and that the snakes actively select rocks scented by geckos.We manipulated rock temperature and the presence of two types of cues from geckos (chemical and visual information) to clarify the causal basis for foraging site selection by the juveniles of this snake.When given a choice between cold lizard-scented rocks and hot unscented rocks, our captive snakes gave a higher priority to lizard scent than to temperature.The snakes also selected shelter-sites that provided visual as well as scent cues from lizards, rather than shelter-sites with scent cues alone.Thus, although broad-headed snakes show a direct preference for hotter rather than colder rocks in the laboratory, their choice of foraging site in the field may also be influenced by the presence of scent cues from prey. Our laboratory results suggest that habitat selection by broad-headed snakes may be more complex than has been suggested by previous single-factor laboratory trials[Current Zoology 55(4): 266–271, 2009].