Alumni

Ecological investigations of the Psammophiidae (Squamata:Serpentes)

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Description: Snakes of the family Psammophiidae are ubiquitous throughout southwestern Asia, Mediterranean Europe, and Africa, yet little is known about their biology. My research focused on two southern African species, Psammophylax rhombeatus and Psammophis crucifer , and one northern hemisphere species, Psammophis schokari , using two widespread methodological approaches in snake ecology: (1) examination of museum specimens, and (2) radiotelemetry on free-ranging individuals. In the first approach, I dissected and measured over 900 specimens and quantified the sexual size dimorphism, diet, reproductive biology, and the geographic variation of these traits across populations of each species' distribution. In the second approach used, I radiotracked nine free-ranging Psammophylax rhombetaus from September-November 2006 on Farm Steenboksfontein in the Western Cape Province, South Africa and quantified spatio-temporal ecological patterns. Focal snake observations during the study also documented chemosensory behavior unique to the clade, as well as a novel foraging strategy never before seen in any African snake.
Language: English
Format: Degree Work