Intense male-male ritual combat In the Micrurus ibiboboca complex (Elapidae) from Northeastern South America

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Snakes engaged in agonistic encounters may employ visual and tactile displays that sometimes culminate in ritual combat. Here, we describe novel male-male ritual combat behaviors in South American coral snakes in the Micrurus ibiboboca complex based on the largest observational dataset of ritual combat for any species of the genus Micrurus. The dataset includes 85 photographs and four videographs from six respective observation records of male snakes. We observed four of these fights during the daytime and two during the night. All observations were random encounters in different natural environments during transitional dry seasons (i.e., early dry season between April and June in the west, and the early wet season between August and September on the east coast). During each respective period, precipitation is < 100 mm and is accompanied with decreasing and increasing temperatures, respectively. The following behaviors were observed: recognition, ascent, and alignment. These were followed by orientation, entwining and twisting, rolling, and hovering; then, oblique display stances and topping (including lyre-shaped positioning and dorsal hyperextension). The topping attempts were from high oblique display positions with one male attempting to force the head of the other down. We also observed snapping, where snake opponents twist the heads of each other creating a quick snap-like sound. We suggest these complex ritual displays communicate dominance between snakes.
Missassim A, Coeti RZ, Almeida-Santos SM, Prudente AL.C.. Intense male-male ritual combat In the Micrurus ibiboboca complex (Elapidae) from Northeastern South America. Herpetological Conservation and Biology. 2022 Apr; 17(1):204–216
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