Data from: Active foraging for toxic prey during gestation in a snake with maternal provisioning of sequestered chemical defenses
Kojima, Yosuke; Mori, Akira (2014), Data from: Active foraging for toxic prey during gestation in a snake with maternal provisioning of sequestered chemical defenses, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.s0h82
Many animals sequester dietary defensive compounds and incorporate them into the offspring, which protects the young against predation. One possible but poorly investigated question is whether females of such species actively prey upon toxic diets. The snake Rhabdophis tigrinus sequesters defensive steroids from toads consumed as prey; it also feeds on other amphibians. Females produce chemically armed offspring in direct proportion to their own level of toad-derived toxins by provisioning the toxins to their eggs. Our field observations of movements and stomach contents of radio-tracked R. tigrinus showed that gravid snakes preyed upon toads by actively foraging in the habitat of toads, even though toads were a scarce resource and toad-searching may incur potential costs. Our Y-maze experiments demonstrated that gravid females were more likely to trail the chemical cues of toads than were males or non-gravid females. These results showed behavioural switching in females and active foraging for scarce, toxic prey during gestation. Because exploitation of toads by gravid females results in their offspring being more richly endowed with prey-derived toxins, active foraging for toxic prey is expected to be an adaptive antipredator trait, which may enhance chemical defence in offspring.