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Pheromone trailing in male European whip snake, Hierophis viridiflavus

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The ability of snakes to follow conspecific pheromone trails during the breeding season is of primary importance to locate potential mates, and also to elicit and maintain courtship or other reproductive behaviours, such as agonistic behaviour. Despite the recent increased knowledge on snake chemical ecology, yet little information is available on European species and nothing is known about chemical communication in European colubrid species. The aim of this study was to characterise the pheromone-mediated trailing behaviour in male European whip snake, Hierophis viridiflavus. When tested in trailing experiments using a Y-maze, male European whip snakes displayed the ability to trail both male and female pheromones when presented versus a blank arm of the maze. Moreover, adult males followed the female pheromone trail when presented simultaneously with the male trail. Our study demonstrated that male Hierophis viridiflavus rely on chemical cues for the location and the sexual discrimination of conspecifics during the breeding season. Convergence between different mating systems and chemical communication ability in distantly related species is discussed.

Affiliations: 1: Museum of Natural History and Territory, University of Pisa, Via Roma 79, I-56011 Calci (Pisa)-Italy, Department of Biology, University of Pisa, Via Volta 6, I-56100 Pisa-Italy; 2: Museum of Natural History and Territory, University of Pisa, Via Roma 79, I-56011 Calci (Pisa)-Italy; 3: Museum of Natural History and Territory, University of Pisa, Via Roma 79, I-56011 Calci (Pisa)-Italy;, Email:


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