Prey Selection in the Queen snake, Regina septemvittata, in Streams of the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia, U.S.A.
Keywords:Feeding Ecology, Herpetology
Regina septemvittata (Queen snake) is a semi-aquatic snake occurring throughout central and eastern North America that exhibits extreme dietary specialization, feeding almost exclusively on freshly molted crayfishes. Though it is known R. septemvittata forage on crayfishes, little is understood about prey preferences at the species and genus level. Because different crayfish species have varying life history patterns, and molting frequency is allied to life history attributes, it is not clear whether there is a preference based on crayfish species or prey availability based on molt state. To determine if R. septemvittata has preferences for species, we surveyed four streams in the northern panhandle of West Virginia for R. septemvittata and completed seasonal life history studies on crayfish species occurring in those streams from March through October 2018. Over the collecting season 101 Queen snakes were captured. From these, we recovered 24 prey samples that were subsequently identified using either polymerase chain reaction (PCR) or visual identification. Monthly crayfish sampling was used to determine molting frequency of the two available prey species in the study streams: Cambarus carinirostris and Faxonius obscurus. Preliminary results seem to indicate that freshly molted crayfish availability dictates foraging behavior in R. septemvittata, and a lack of specialization at the taxonomic level occurs in this species.
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