As ectotherms, snakes have a lot of difficulty regulating their temperature in cold environments. They must carefully balance their time between thermoregulation and hunting, and to a lesser extent mate searching. The type of hunting a snake uses has a large impact on this tradeoff; snakes can either forage and search for their food, or sit and wait in ambush for food to come to them. In a recent study by researchers at the University of Illinois, this tradeoff was examined. The focus was Massasauga rattlers, an ambush hunter. The populations examined were at the northernmost borders of their habitat in British Columbia. The snakes were implanted with transmitters to gather location and temperature data, which was later compared to existing data on Ratsnakes and Watersnakes (both forage predators). Intuitively, it makes sense that the ambush predators would be able to thermoregulate the best. They can find somewhere comfortable to set up their trap, whereas hunters have to move through various inopportune environments (especially Watersnakes, which swim through cold Canadian water). The results complied with this hypothesis. It was found that Massasaugas were much more efficient thermoregulators, despite having a higher preferred temperature and living in poorer thermal environments.
Rhys Ursuliak (3)