Rattlesnakes experience less stress when they’re together

Animal News: Rattlesnakes experience less stress when they're together
Rattlesnake, photo: Canva

A study conducted by California’s Loma Linda University found that rattlesnakes appear to experience less stress when they are close to others. The animals showed complex social behaviors, contradicting the conventional perception of reptiles as solitary animals.

The research, led by Ph.D. candidate Chelsea Martin under the supervision of Professor William Hayes, documented that the heart rates of Southern Pacific rattlesnakes were lower when they were grouped together.

These rattlesnakes might be more social than previously believed, showing the capacity for emotional responses and complex social behavior.

“It tells us that when they are with another snake, that they can reduce their stress response,” Martin said. “And, you know, this is something that humans do as well. Humans socially buffer, like many other species that are typically considered to be social, like other mammals, birds, fishes… it’s even been reported in termites. So I think that for us as humans, it lets us know that, hey, we’re not that different from these snakes.”

“It also tells us that there are more complex things going on with them and that they’re more social than we originally believed them to be,” she added. “You know, they’re doing something that we do as well.”

These findings could have practical effects, potentially helping to improve animal care management in zoos, captive breeding programs, and during rattlesnake removal and translocation efforts.

Professor Hayes emphasized the need for a change in public perception, pointing out that many animals are sentient, capable of emotions, and deserving of better treatment.

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