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Horned Pitviper (Serpentes: Viperidae: Ophryacus smaragdinus) Can Detect Substrate Vibrations of Potential Prey of Differing Size

Octavio Iván Martínez-Vaca León, Ana Gloria Gutiérrez-García, Blandina Bernal-Morales, Juan Francisco Rodríguez-Landa, Laura Teresa Hernández-Salazar, Jorge Eufrates Morales-Mávil

Abstract


Despite that snakes lack outer traces of an auditory system, they respond to acoustic stimuli in the air, in terrestrial substrates and in water, through a functioning cochlea and a somatic system. In reptiles, the use of vibrations has been primarily associated with communication among individuals. However, vibrations also can be a useful mechanism in predator-prey interactions, facilitating efficient hunting. The aim of our study was to examine the ability of horned pitvipers (Ophryacus smaragdinus) to detect and discriminate prey through their vibrations, which were recorded and played back with a transmitter of acoustic waves under a controlled experimental condition. We analyzed the capability of snakes to detect and discriminate potential prey (mouse and lizard) of different sizes, by playing back vibrations that prey species emitted when moving. Our results showed that O. smaragdinus has the ability to detect vibrations of its prey, but it does not discriminate among prey species or size based on the vibrations. We conclude that the auditory system of O. smaragdinus is an important first step to detect prey via vibrations, and that this species likely uses other complementary sensory strategies, such as chemoperception and or thermoperception, for prey recognition.

Keywords


auditory system; predation; prey; sensory system; vibrations; Viperidae

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References


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.30906/1026-2296-2020-27-4-201-208

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