Crossing Higher Ground: Terrestrial Activity and Seasonal Timing of Reproduction in the Fully Aquatic Mud Snake (pp. 335-350)
Authors: (William I. Lutterschmidt, Sam Houston State University, TX, USA)
Abstract: The seasonal activity and movement patterns of many snake species are influenced by several physiological factors. The physiology of reproductive timing is one such factor and may alter patterns of a snake’s ecology and behavior. Here, the ecology and behavior of the fully aquatic mud snake, Farancia abacura, are briefly reviewed while presenting new information on the occurrence of terrestrial activity in adult mud snakes. I sampled a snake assemblage in southeastern Louisiana and investigated the correlation between increased terrestrial activity and reported patterns of seasonal reproductive condition and timing of follicular development. Unlike many snake species that can be easily observed year-round in this geographic region (e.g., water snakes, Nerodia), Farancia were observed only from April to August and mostly in April and May, corresponding with records of follicular development in female mud snakes. Analyses indicate that only 18.8% of the variation in the number of observed mud snakes could be explained by the environmental cues of temperature and relative humidity. I explore the possible seasonal cues used in the timing of emergence and terrestrial activity by this fully aquatic and secretive snake species and discuss how certain environmental cues and reproductive condition may serve as potential Zeitgebers (i.e., “time givers”) for crossing higher ground.