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Snakes Form Social Cliques Just Like Humans, Study Suggests

by : Emma Rosemurgey on : 20 May 2020 14:17
Snakes Form Social Cliques Just Like Humans, Study SuggestsSnakes Form Social Cliques Just Like Humans, Study SuggestsPixabay

All you have to do is watch Mean Girls to get an idea of how human friendships work.

Whether you’re one of the art freaks or the plastics, we humans form friendships based on shared interests and experiences.

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And, though we may think lifelong friendships are a purely human thing, it seems we’re not the only ones.

Snakes Form Social Cliques Just Like Humans, Study SuggestsSnakes Form Social Cliques Just Like Humans, Study SuggestsFlickr

Snakes are commonly thought of as unsocial and solitary creatures, but it turns out there’s an awful lot more to their relationships with other serpents than we previously considered.

A new study from researchers at Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario, Canada, took 40 young eastern garter snakes, which are native to the Southeast and most of North America, and put them in four separate shelter groups in an enclosure.

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Psychologist Noam Miller and his graduate student Morgan Skinner recorded the positions of the snakes twice a day for eight days, and cleared the pen of any odours, before putting them back into the enclosure in different locations.

Keeping track of individual snakes by placing dots on their heads, the research found that the snakes not only sought out social interaction by huddling in groups, they also tended to seek out the same other snakes, forming a kind of reptile clique.

Snakes Form Social Cliques Just Like Humans, Study SuggestsSnakes Form Social Cliques Just Like Humans, Study SuggestsNeedpix

Speaking to Science Magazine, Skinner explained these ‘cliques’ are ‘in some way surprisingly similar to those of mammals, including humans’.

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In their paper, which was published in Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, Skinner and Miller explained:

This bias is exacerbated by the fact that in some reptile species social interactions are hidden, due to their secretive nature, and that social communication is often conducted via invisible chemical cues.

In theory, our long and skinny little friends have more in common with us than we might’ve thought.

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Emma Rosemurgey

Emma Rosemurgey is an NCTJ trained Journalist who started her career by producing The Royal Rosemurgey newspaper in 2004, which kept her family up to date with the goings on of her sleepy north east village. She graduated from the University of Central Lancashire in Preston and started her career in regional newspapers before joining Tyla (formerly Pretty 52) in 2017, and progressing onto UNILAD in 2019.

Topics: Animals, Canada, Ontario, Snakes

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Science Magazine and 1 other
  1. Science Magazine

    Garter snakes are surprisingly social, forming ‘friendships’ with fellow serpents

  2. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

    Aggregation and social interaction in garter snakes