The British Herpetological Society

The Herpetological Journal is the Society's prestigious quarterly scientific journal. Articles are listed in Biological Abstracts, Current Awareness in Biological Sciences,Current Contents, Science Citation Index, and Zoological Record.

 ISSN 0268-0130

2020 Impact Factor for the Herpetological Journal is 0.862

pdf 07. Selection of prey from groups water snakes and fish


Open Access

pp. 71-77

Authors: Adrian Hailey and P. M. C. Davies

Abstract: This paper investigates the selection, ingestion and digestion of different sized goldfish by viperine water snakes Natrix maura. A previous study had suggested that sentinel foraging N. maura preferentially select medium sized fish to give the maximum rate of energy intake during ingestion. It was however found that snakes preferentially struck at the largest fish available in the range 1-20 per cent relative prey weight, even though these fish gave no advantage in ease of capture or rate of energy intake during ingestion or digestion. The advantage of this selection is shown to result from the schooling behaviour of fish and the low rates of capture during sentinel foraging. It was confirmed that snakes capture and attempt to ingest fish too large for them. A large fish provides an energy supply large in relation to the snake's requirements (covering about 60 days maintenance) compared to the small cost of handling before rejection. It would thus be better to handle all fish unless much too large, rather than rejecting those closer to the maximum and possibly making a mistake.

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Please note that as from Volume 31 Number 1 (January 2021) on, the Herpetological Journal will be available as an online publication only - the last print edition will be Volume 30 Number 4.   

Aligning with this change, it is now no longer possible to purchase a subscription that includes a print copy of the HJ.  All members who have existing HJ print subscriptions that remain active as at end June 2020 will receive the full four 2020 print editions.  New subscribers or renewals after this time will only have option to subscribe to the online only subscription package.  Subscription pricing has been amended to reflect the content changes.