Abstract # 6129 Event # 255:

Scheduled for Saturday, June 20, 2015 02:00 PM-02:30 PM: (Cascade F) Oral Presentation


DETECTING AND REACTING TO SNAKES: THE PREEMPTIVE STRATEGIES OF PRIMATE SNAKE AVOIDANCE

N. G. Caine and J. R. Wombolt
California State University, Department of Psychology, San Marcos, CA 92096, USA
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     Snakes have been important predators of primates since the inception of the order (Isbell 2006). Accordingly, primates, both human and non-human, tend to react strongly to snakes. Psychologists have investigated these reactions in computer-based search tasks that address questions related to our ability to detect snakes quickly. These studies have demonstrated that both human and macaque subjects have quicker reaction times to coiled objects than to a variety of other objects, suggesting that serpentine shapes are given perceptual precedence in primate visual systems (e.g., LoBue & DeLoache 2011). Outside the laboratory, primatologists have reported anecdotes, systematic observational data, and results of field experiments that highlight the roles of visual vigilance, referential alarm calls, and other behavioral strategies (e.g., sleeping site selection) that contribute to snake detection and avoidance (e.g., Ramakrishnan et al. 2007). These data indicate that primates tend to react to snakes in accordance with the degree of threat they pose, but they do so in ways that are sometimes unexpected or difficult to reconcile with other data. Here I summarize the strengths and limitations of laboratory and field methods as related to studies of primate-snake (or snake-like stimuli) encounters, the general conclusions from these studies, and the important questions yet to be answered about the ways that primates cope with the threats posed by snakes.