Current Zoology(formerly Acta Zoologica Sinica), 2012, 58(6): 805 - 811
Familiarity with a female does not affect a male's courtship intensity in garter snakes Thamnophis sirtalis parietalis
Richard SHINE, Jonathan K.WEBB, Amanda LANE, Robert T.MASON
S c h o o l o f B i o l o g i c a l S c i e n c e s A 0 8 , 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
In many animal species, males direct more intense courtship towards females they have not previously encountered, than towards females with which they have previously mated. To test the factors responsible for this "Coolidge Effect", we need studies on a wide range of taxa – including those with mating systems in which we would not expect (based on current theory) that such an effect would be evident. The Coolidge Effect has been documented in several lizard species, but has not been looked for (and would not be expected) in snakes. We conducted experimental trials with red-sided garter snakes Thamnophis sirtalis parietalis at a communal den in Manitoba, to see whether previous exposure to a female (either courting, or courting plus mating) modified male mate choice or courtship intensity. In keeping with prediction from theory (but contrary to an early anecdotal report), male garter snakes did not modify their courtship behaviour based upon their familiarity (or lack thereof) with a specific female. At least in large courting aggregations, male snakes may maximize their fitness by basing mate-choice upon immediate attributes of the female (body size, condition, mated status) and the intensity of competition (numbers and sizes of rival males) rather than information derived from previous sexual encounters [Current Zoology 58 (6): 805–811, 2012].