Male trailing behavior in the Burmese Python.

More than 80 years ago G. K. Noble demonstrated male snake locate females by pheromone trails left by the female’s skin as she, moves about and is detected by the male’s vomeronasal system. Since that initial paper, numerous other have added to what we know about snake pheromones. In a new paper, Richardson et al. (2018) consider the chemical signals used in mate choice are thus potentially valuable tools for management of invasive snake species. The Burmese python (Python bivittatus) is an invasive snake in the Florida Everglades where it is negatively impacting native fauna. In this study, the authors sought to (1) determine if males can follow conspecific chemical trails in a Y‐maze and (2) describe the mate-searching behaviors exhibited by males while trailing. All males consistently followed a single female scent trail in the maze, but when only a male scent trail was present they did not discriminate between the male and control. The rate of tongue‐flicking, a proxy for chemosensory sampling, was also marginally higher when males were following female vs. male scent trails. However, when both female and male scent trails were simultaneously present in the Y‐maze, males did not show a preference for the female arm, though the tongue‐flick rate was higher in the female‐only trial compared to female vs. male. Analyses of multiple male behaviors individually and using an ethogram revealed that behaviors were more frequent and complex in the female‐only trials compared to male‐only. Additional behavioral trials are needed to determine if an effective pheromonal approach to Burmese python management is possible.Richard SA, Tillman EA, Humphrey JS, Avery ML, Parker MR. 2018. Male Burmese pythons follow female scent trails and show sex‐specific behaviors. Integrative Zoology. 2018 Dec 26.