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Snake species discrimination by wild bonnet macaques (Macaca radiata)

Snake species discrimination by wild bonnet macaques (Macaca radiata)

Ethology 111(4): 337-356

Wild bonnet macaques (Macaca radiata) were studied in southern India to assess their ability to discriminate non-venomous, venomous and predatory snakes. Realistic snake models were presented to eight troops of bonnet macaques at feeding stations and their behavior was video-recorded 3 min before and 3 min after snake exposure. Snakes presented were: (1) venomous Indian cobra (Naja naja) displaying an open hood with 'eyespots'; (2) venomous common Indian krait (Bungarus caeruleus); (3) non-venomous green keelback (Macropisthodan plumbicolor); (4) non-venomous rat snake (Ptyas mucosus); and (5) Indian python (Python molurus) which preys on macaques. Latencies to detect and react to the snakes were evaluated to determine initial responsiveness. Longer-term assessment was measured as the percentage of time individuals looked at the snakes and monitored the activity of nearby individuals before and after snake detection. All snake models engendered caution and maintenance of a safe distance. Alarm calling occurred only during python presentations. The cobra engendered a startle response or running in the largest percentage of individuals after its detection, whereas the rat snake and python elicited bipedal standing or ambulating to monitor the snakes. We also examined the influence of age on snake recognition. Juveniles and subadults looked at the cobra, krait, and python for a larger percentage of time than adults did; albeit, adults looked at the python substantially longer than at the other snakes. Age differences in behavior suggest that, with the exception of the python, repeated experience with snakes in the wild moderates excitability, consistent with the likely threat of envenomation.

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Accession: 012565262

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DOI: 10.1111/j.1439-0310.2004.01063.x

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