Maternal behavior

Little or no interaction occurs between male and female after coitus. With rare exception (male western diamondback rattlesnakes have been observed to remain with females for some days before and after copulation), there have been no scientific reports of long-term pair bonds between males and females in any species of reptile. Females of some species exhibit maternal behavior. Building of nests with attendance of eggs has been reported among king cobras (Ophiophagus hannah), Great Plains skinks (Eumeces obsoletus), and most croco-dilians. Female turtles deposit their eggs in nests, sometimes with elaborate digging and refilling, but no species has been reported to attend the eggs or nest after oviposition and refilling of the nest cavity. Indian pythons (Python molurus) have been observed to brood their eggs using shivering movements to generate heat. Although parental (maternal) care of neonates is now well known among crocodilians, early reports of this behavior were doubted until modern researchers developed methods to observe these animals, especially American alligators (Alligator mississippiensis) in captivity as well as in the wild. The well-organized maternal behavior of croco-dilians, the last of the ruling reptiles, has prompted some paleontologists to speculate about the presence of maternal care in dinosaurs. This topic remains controversial but is gradually being supported by an impressive array of fossil evidence and insightful argument.

New evidence regarding maternal behavior is likely to arise from the study of certain viviparous snakes. Several investigators have reported that female rattlesnakes remain with or very near their litters for several days after parturition. Initially this behavior was considered unimportant, perhaps the result of maternal exhaustion from the act of giving birth. Now it has been hypothesized that maternal attendance of neonates may be more than an artifact of exhaustion. Perhaps the fitness of the neonates is enhanced by the mother's presence, and this means her fitness may be enhanced. The general idea is that the mother's presence may discourage predators who would otherwise take a toll on the neonates. The mother's presence also may allow the neonates to become familiar with her odors and use them to find their way to the hibernaculum. That is, the neonates might locate the den by trailing familiar odors deposited by the mother. None of these ideas has been subjected to rigorous scientific testing, but such tests are likely to be performed.

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Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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