Snake moms-to-be crave toxic toads

The tiger keelbacks seek out nasty snacks for poisons to pass on to offspring

tiger keelback snake, Rhabdophis tigrinus

When female Rhabdophis tigrinus snakes are breeding, they seeks out toxic toads to eat. The snakes can then pass the poisons on to their offspring as chemical defenses.

Yasunori Koide/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Guest post by Bethany Brookshire

Female tiger keelback snakes seek out toxic toads to eat when breeding, researchers report November 12 in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. A taste for toxins may arm their young, keeping them safe until they can hunt for their own defenses.

Rhabdophis tigrinus snakes, found across Asia, store chemicals from Bufo japonicus toads in special nuchal glands. These glands release the toxins when the snake is attacked. Males and nonbreeding females eat few toads, preferring tastier prey such as green tree frogs. But breeding females prefer environments populated with toads and will follow the trails of these poisonous snacks, passing the toxins on to their offspring.

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