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Press for Burghardt: Snakes that recognize whether they are venomous

Professor Gordon Burghardt has a new article out in Journal of Comparative Psychology with Akira Mori called, “Do tiger keelback snakes (Rhabdophis tigrinus) recognize how toxic they are?” (DOI: 10.1037/com0000075)

The findings of the article have been picked up by places like New Scientist. Tiger keelback snakes do not make their own venom; they store and use toxins from the food they eat.  Individuals that have been fed a diet of toxic toads display more aggressive behavior when threatened, unlike their non-toxic brethren, who typically slither away.  This raises the question of how the snakes know whether they are toxic or not.