Hooding behaviour in the South American colubrid genus Philodryas, based on field observations conducted on the Chilean long-tailed snake P. chamissonis

2015-02-06T09:16:49Z (GMT) by Manuel Jara Daniel Pincheira-Donoso

Animal species have evolved a remarkable diversity of defensive phenotypic strategies aimed to deceive
predators and other forms of danger. By relying on deception, these adaptations increase the
chances of avoiding physical contact that may otherwise have very high fitness costs. One such deceptive
behaviour is the popularly-known neck flattening, or “hooding”, observed in some snakes.
Hooding consists in the lateral expansion and dorso-ventral flattening of the neck, which creates the
impression of a bigger opponent during confrontations. This trait is highly characteristic of cobras
(Elapidae family). However, neck flattening is not exclusive to elapids, and has in fact been observed
in a few other snake lineages, including some species of the families Lamprophiidae and Colubridae.
Here, we present the first report of hooding behaviour in the South American colubrid genus
Philodryas, based on field observations conducted on the Chilean species P. chamissonis (the longtailed
snake). Our report adds to the few cases in which this deceptive behaviour has been observed in
snakes outside the cobra family.