Abstract # 250:

Scheduled for Saturday, June 20, 2015 01:30 PM-02:00 PM: (Cascade F) Oral Presentation


H. W. Greene
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Corson Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA
     Constrictors arose >100 mya and front-fanged venomous snakes ~50 mya, whereas primates originated ~75 mya and anthropoids ~46 mya. Natural history data document that serpents consume tree shrews, colugos, and >30 species of strepsirrhines, tarsiers, and anthropoids, including human hunter-gatherers (Homo sapiens); although no snakes specialize on primates, Boa Constrictors (Boa constrictor), Madagascan Ground Boas (Acrantophis madagascariensis), and Reticulated Pythons (Malayopython reticulatus) regularly eat them. Viperids and elapids defensively bite and sometimes kill primates, and among some forest people most adult males have survived one or more bites; lemurs, tarsiers, and anthropoids mob, kill, and sometimes eat snakes. These findings are consistent with three emerging generalizations: 1) Isbell’s Snake Detection Theory, that as constricting predators and later venomous adversaries, snakes influenced the origin and radiation of primates, especially in terms of the neurobiology of vision and fear; 2) origins of front-fangs radically changed snake encounters with predators, such that visually- and acoustically-oriented, cognitively sophisticated adversaries promoted the evolution of defensive displays and mimicry; 3) as visual, acoustic, cognitive, and weapon-wielding adversaries, primates have affected snake evolution, including perhaps favoring spitting cobras, the only example of long-distance weaponry among all serpents. These bi-directional evolutionary relationships both challenge and inspire efforts to conserve snakes.