Expectant Snake Moms Crave Toxic Toads
Posted by Richard Conniff on November 12, 2014
O.K., this still does not explain the pickle-and-ice cream cravings of pregnant women. But it’s always interesting to discover that our own strange behaviors have parallels in the animal world. The very brief story comes from Science News:
Female tiger keelback snakes seek out toxic toads to eat when breeding, researchers report November 12 in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. A taste for toxins may
arm their young, keeping them safe until they can hunt for their own defenses.
Rhabdophis tigrinus snakes, found across Asia, store chemicals from Bufo japonicus toads in special nuchal glands. These glands release the toxins when the snake is attacked. Males and nonbreeding females eat few toads, preferring tastier prey such as green tree frogs. But breeding females prefer environments populated with toads and will follow the trails of these poisonous snacks, passing the toxins on to their offspring.