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

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pdf 01. How many ways can a snake growl The morphology of sound production in [i]Ptyas mucosus[i] and its potential mimicry of Ophiophagus


Open Access


Authors: Bruce A. Young, Jackie Solomon And G Eorg E Abishahin

Abstract: As part of its defensive display the Indian rat snake, Ptyas mucosus, mediolaterally compresses the anterior portion of its body and expands its throat region ventrally. During this postural display P. mucosus produces a deep, rumbling defensive growl. Acoustic analysis of this growl revealed it to be a long moderately loud sound dominated by lower frequencies. Binding the neck and anterior portion of the body with surgical tape prevented the postural display; while the defensive sounds produced by bound specimens had the same duration and amplitude, their frequency increased significantly. The tracheal membrane of P. mucosus is unusually wide and expands away from the tracheal rings into the body cavity. We hypothesize that during the defensive postural display the expansive tracheal membrane is collapsed forming isolated pockets which have a resonance effect on the exhalent airstream. Ptyas mucosus may be an acoustic Batesian mimic of the king cobra, Ophiophagus hannah.

Keywords: sound production, acoustics, Batesian mimicry, colubrids, defensive behaviour

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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.   

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