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Do they 'mark' predators

Printed From: Reptiles and Amphibians of the UK
Category: Herpetofauna Native to the UK
Forum Name: Grass Snake
Forum Description: Forum for all issues concerning Natrix natrix
Printed Date: 26 Sep 2020 at 10:30pm
Software Version: Web Wiz Forums 11.06 -

Topic: Do they 'mark' predators
Posted By: Hawley
Subject: Do they 'mark' predators
Date Posted: 22 Apr 2015 at 2:33pm
I recently heard a talk about skunks where it was mentioned that the foul smelling spray that the skunk is famous for is actually used to 'mark' predators rather than just be unpleasant.  If a predator gets sprayed, then prey animals (including other skunks) will be able to smell the predator coming from quite a distance and thus make themselves scarce.  Apparently, some 'marked' predators have starved to death before the scent wore off.

Does anybody know if this is part of the reason that grass snakes emit a foul smelling secretion if attacked??

Posted By: will
Date Posted: 22 Apr 2015 at 2:47pm
interesting idea. In classical 'selfish gene' biology it would not make sense for a predator to become more easily identifiable by other prey animals, unless they were your kin. If anything, given that your conspecifics are your closest competitors, you would want them to find it harder rather than easier to locate a predator. Fewer competitors = better chance of passing on your own genes. I think the most likely explanation is that the skunking makes the individual grass snake itself smell/taste unpalatable, rather than to assist other prey animals in detecting the predator.

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