Reptile Behavior – Social Learning Through Imitation

파충류샵 Reptile behavior has been largely overlooked by scientists, but new research is beginning to unravel the mysteries of these animals. One key discovery involves social learning through imitation.


This type of learning is usually reserved for mammals, but reptiles have structurally similar hormones that may influence their own social interactions.

Social Behavior

Various aspects of animal social behavior have fascinated humans for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years. Yet despite this long-standing interest, it is only recently that reptiles have come into the spotlight as key players in the study of these phenomena. In fact, researchers have discovered that many species of reptiles hunt, feed, migrate, court, mate, and nest in groups. They can also communicate with one another while still in the egg, and they have a wide range of complex social behaviors that may help them survive.

These discoveries are helping to dispel the popular myth that reptiles live simple, asocial lives. They can learn from their peers, display aggressive displays to defend territory and access to mates, and even form long-term monogamous family relationships. They can communicate using visual or vibrational signals, and some species have evolved complex cries that indicate prey is near. Some reptiles can even live in a social group, known as a colony, like the naked mole rat (Heterocephalus glaber) and Damaraland mole rat (Cryptomys damarensis). The pinnacle of reptilian social behavior is exhibited by eusocial species that engage in multigenerational, highly structured, cooperative family groups in which most individuals carry out specific tasks to aid a small number of reproductively active members.

Bringing together several decades of research, this book reveals the secrets of reptilian social life from garter snakes to Komodo dragons. It covers a diverse array of behavioral responses to environmental cues, from aggregation behavior in snakes to dominance behavior in turtles to territorial disputes and synchronized courting and mating in lizards and snakes. It explores the sensory, genetic, morphological, and physiological controls on these behaviors as well as their evolutionary origins.

Food Predators파충류샵

Reptiles are found at many different levels within the food chain as herbivores, insectivores or carnivores. Some reptiles are apex predator species, such as a Komodo dragon, and others are lower down the ladder, such as snakes, insectivores, or decomposer species (like earthworms or bacteria).

When a reptile feels threatened it can use a number of different behaviors to protect itself from its prey or other threats. For example, a lizard can display its tail to distract an attacker and divert the attack away from its vulnerable head. This type of defensive behavior is commonly seen in pipe snakes, shield tailed lizards, ring necked lizards, burrowing pythons, coral snakes and sand boas.

Another form of reptile defense is chemoreception. Many, but not all, reptiles have a special organ in their nose or roof of the mouth that can sense chemicals in the air. This allows them to follow scent trails left by fellow snakes to hunt and ambush prey.

A crocodile, for example, has evolved to stalk and ambush animals on land as they drink or swim. They have a very long tail that they can raise and squirt water over the target to slow it down as it approaches, which also helps them pick up their meal from the ground. Reptiles that hunt and ambush their prey have a higher success rate than those who simply wait around for it to come to them.

Threat Displays

Many reptiles use ritualized displays to signal that an attack may be imminent. The display behavior usually involves a combination of fluffed-out fur or feathers, a certain body posture and low-frequency vocalizations like growls. These displays serve to deter potential predators from attacking and may also distract them enough that the animal can escape.

A variation of a threat display is the gaping threat, which involves the male lizard opening its mouth very wide exposing the bright pink oral mucosa and showing off its powerful jaw muscles. This is seen in male anoles displaying to females during the breeding season and in territorial encounters. It is also a common defense mechanism in horned lizards during territorial interactions with other males.

Another defensive behavior is the ‘fake strike’, in which a snake raises its head up into a S-shape and opens its mouth. This displays the teeth and serves as a warning that it is ready to bite. This is seen often in leopard geckos and is used to deter predators from attacking the head and neck.

During a threat display, some lizards will wave their tails, especially in the case of snake species such as pipe snakes (Anilliidae), shield tailed snakes (Uropeltidae) and ring necked snakes (Colubridae). The waving of the tail appears to be used to divert a predator’s attack away from the vulnerable head toward the more disposable tail.

Tail Displays

Many reptiles display brightly colored contrasting skin or patterns on their bodies. These displays are intended to attract a prey item to within striking distance of the snake and capture it. This is a well-known behavior of vipers (Vipera genus) but is also exhibited by boids (Madagascan ground boa and boa constrictor) and elapids such as coral snakes and sand and rubber boas. During the tail display the snake waves it back and forth and often mimics the movement of an insect. This attracts the prey item and may startle or deceive it into attacking the snake.

Other display behaviors are meant to deter predators and allow the animal to escape. This is well-developed in boids (pipe snakes, ring necked snakes) and elapids (corals, shield tailed snakes and burrowing pythons). The head of these animals is hidden beneath the body or tightly coiled and the tail is waved or moved in a manner that resembles a striking head. This deters the attacker and often exposes the brightly colored contrasting ventrum of the snake.

Various lizards and turtles hiss loudly during aggressive or dominance encounters. This is a highly effective threat display that can divert the attack away from the vulnerable head and neck regions of the animal. Several snakes, including fox and horny toadhead vipers, rapidly vibrate the tips of their tails when threatened. The resulting sound, similar to a rattlesnake, can be very intimidating and is often misinterpreted by novice owners as disease or injury.