Do warning displays predict striking behavior in a viperid snake, the cottonmouth (Agkistrodon piscivorus)?
Warning displays are defined as signals designed to intimidate predators or indicate a proclivity to fight. However, support for the idea that warning behaviors signal an intent to fight is largely based on anecdotes and isolated observations, and a complete understanding of antipredator behavior will only be achieved if specific hypotheses are experimentally tested. Herein, we tested in a North American viperid snake, the cottonmouth (Agkistrodon piscivorus), the hypothesis that warning displays serve as a reliable signal to potential predators that a snake will strike. The cottonmouth exhibits two stereotypical warning displays during predator confrontation, i.e., mouth gaping and tailmore »