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Trophic Relationships and Foraging Strategies of some New World Tree Snakes (Leptophis, Oxybelis, Uromacer)

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Trophic relationships and foraging strategies are examined in two New World arboreal, diurnal, snake communities: Leptophis mexicanus, Oxybelis aeneus, and O.fulgidus from Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula, and Uromacer catesbyi and U. oxyrhynchus from Isla Saona, República Dominicana. Active foragers (L. mexicanus and U. catesbyi) have similar body proportions and feed primarily on diurnally quiescent prey (hylid frogs, bird eggs). Sit-and-wait strategists (O. aeneus, O.fulgidus and U. oxyrhynchus) have similar body proportions and feed on diurnally active prey (primarily lizards). Active foragers take prey that is, on the average, larger than the prey of sit-and-wait foragers, but presumably, active foragers expend more energy in locating prey. Trophic niche breadth is widest among the active foragers and narrowest for the slender vine snakes (O. aeneus and U. oxyrhynchus). Trophic niche overlap values are low for species pairs that occur sympatrically (or syntopically) with the exception of O. aeneus-O. fulgidus, but O. fufgidus preys on a wider variety of lizard taxa, preys on birds (which are absent from the diet of O. aeneus), and takes prey items that are significantly larger in size. It seems likely that, among arboreal colubrids, the sit-and-wait foraging strategy is derived from one of active foraging.

Affiliations: 1: Section of Vertebrate Zoology, Milwaukee Public Museum, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53233 USA


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