Document Type


Session Format

Oral presentation only (in-person)


Arts and Sciences 2-75

Publication Date

Spring 2024

Faculty Advisor

Dominic DeSantis

Start Date

27-3-2024 2:30 PM

End Date

27-3-2024 2:40 PM


Temperate reptile populations are under strong selective pressure to minimize the costs of extreme winter temperatures. For high latitude and high elevation snake populations, this has often favored communal overwintering behavior, wherein large numbers of conspecifics aggregate at optimal sites given the limited availability of such features in the environment. Timber Rattlesnakes (Crotalus horridus) are distributed across a wide latitudinal gradient in North America, and therefore represent ideal models for exploring how variable winter selective regimes might favor different strategies. Here, we leverage a unique intermediate population of C. horridus from central Georgia, USA, that exhibits both communal and solitary overwintering. By combining remote videography, radio telemetry, and accelerometry from 2022 to present, we quantified relative costs and benefits of communal and solitary overwintering behaviors. Migration distance (mean±S.E.) for communal rattlesnakes (649.96±110.73) was significantly greater than that of solitary individuals (332.10±66.59) (t41.5=2.95, p=0.005). Binomial logit models revealed a positive effect of daily maximum temperature on basking frequency across all rattlesnakes (ES=0.87±0.15, pp=0.03). Despite higher travel costs incurred by communal snakes, individuals might trade-off these costs for increased winter basking opportunities. However, we also documented individual plasticity in this system, with several rattlesnakes shifting between communal and solitary sites across years. Moving forward, we will incorporate temperature datalogging at overwintering sites and physiological monitoring of snakes to better understand the proximate and ultimate drivers of these alternative overwintering strategies.



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