TitlePheromonal inhibition of male courtship behaviour in the brown tree snake, Boiga irregularis: a mechanism for the rejection of potential mates
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2003
AuthorsGreene, MJ, Mason, RT
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Type of ArticleJournal Article

Pheromones play a central role in coordinating the events leading up to copulation in snakes. We report here a novel pheromone system in the brown tree snake in which females release a pheromone that inhibits male courtship behaviour. In a previous study, we made observations of female brown tree snakes releasing cloacal secretions (CS) during courtship that appeared to cause courting males to cease courtship. All snakes have glands that release CS through ducts located along the cloacal orifice. Although CS have been studied for many years, their function in the mediation of snake behaviour has not been experimentally well determined. We examined the role of CS in the reproductive behaviour of male and female brown tree snakes. We conducted four experiments to test the effect of both male and female CS on brown tree snake behaviour under two behavioural contexts, courtship and male-male ritualized combat. Within each experiment, we compared the effects of CS to a control. Female CS caused a decrease in the time that males spent courting females and a decrease in the intensity of courtship compared with the control treatment. Male CS did not, however, affect the time that males spent displaying courtship or the intensity of that courtship. Neither male nor female CS had significant effects on male ritualized combat behaviour, including time that males spent in combat or the intensity of combat behaviours displayed. Furthermore, neither female nor male CS had an effect on female courtship versus controls. The inhibition of brown tree snake reproductive behaviours is specific to female CS inhibiting male courtship behaviour. This pheromone acts in concert with the female sex pheromone to regulate the events leading to copulation. (C) 2003 Published by Elsevier Science Ltd on behalf of The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour.

URL<Go to ISI>://WOS:000183485000006