Exotis ISSN 2398-2985

Reptiles

Snake reproduction

Contributor(s): Vetstream Ltd, Molly Varga

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Introduction

  • The most comprehensive knowledge about physiological regulation of sexual behavior is based on only a few species of reptiles.
  • From those studies, three patterns of reproductive cycles have been shown to exist for snakes:
    1. Associated reproductive cycles are seen in reptiles from subtropical or temperate zones where there is a long active season:
      • Sex hormone secretion and gonadogenesis stimulate copulation, egg and fetal development.
      • A period of cooling followed by warming temperatures is required for successful reproduction.
      • Examples of snakes with this type of cycle are ratsnakes, pinesnakes, gopher snakes, kingsnakes, and milksnakes.
    2. Dissociated reproductive cycles are associated with a short active season:
      • Sexual behavior is not dependent upon sex hormone secretions or ovulation. Insemination occurs during the fall months and females store sperm during winter until ovulation and birthing the following spring. This ensures that the neonates can utilize a longer active period for optimal growth, eg the male behavior in an adult garter snake is not activated by androgen, but rather by hibernation.
      • Several studies have shown male garter snakes exhibiting strong sexual response in the spring when measured levels of androgen are low.
      • It appears that this behavior can only be stimulated by hibernation. Studies have shown that males that do not hibernate do not court females in the spring.
    3. Constant reproductive cycles are seen in snakes from the tropics where reproduction can occur throughout the year.
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Successful reproduction

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Fertilization

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Sexual maturity

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Receptivity / courtship

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Oviparous / ovoviviparous / viviparous

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Timing / frequency of reproduction

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Sperm storage

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Delivery / hatching / maternal care

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Reproductive disorders

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Further Reading

Publications

Refereed papers

Other sources of information

  • Cheek R & Crane M (2017) Snakes. In: Exotic Animal Medicine for the Veterinary Technician. 3rd edn. Eds: Ballard B & Cheek R. Wiley-Blalckwell. pp 137-181.
  • Mohan-Gibbons H & Raiti P (2010) Snakes. In: Behavior of Exotic Pets. Ed: Tynes V V. Wiley-Blackwell. pp 29-30.

Reproduced with permission from Bonnie Ballard & Ryan Cheek: Exotic Animal Medicine for the Veterinary Technician © 2017, and Valerie V Tynes: Behavior of Exotic Pets © 2010, published by John Wiley & Sons.


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