Energetics and space use: Intraspecific and interspecific comparisons of movements and home ranges of two Colubrid snakes

Gerardo L.F. Carfagno, Patrick J. Weatherhead

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


1. Energy requirements explain substantial variation in movement and home range size among birds and mammals. This study assesses whether the same is true of snakes by comparing ratsnakes (Elaphe obsoleta) and racers (Coluber constrictor), ecologically similar species whose energy requirements appear to differ substantially (racers > ratsnakes). 2. Over 4 years 22 Elaphe and 16 Coluber were radio-tracked at the same site in Illinois to examine how movement and home ranges varied by sex and season. 3. Coluber moved more often and further per move than Elaphe, resulting in their estimated mean day range being almost four times larger than that of Elaphe (88.0 m day-1 vs. 23.1 m day-1). 4. Both male and female Elaphe moved more frequently early in the season consistent with mate-searching, but mean distances moved did not differ seasonally or by sex. Both sexes of Coluber moved more later in the season and overall males moved further than females. 5. Interspecifically, patterns were consistent with the energetics hypothesis - Coluber had mean home ranges approximately four times larger than those of Elaphe. 6. Intraspecifically, increased movement did not always produce larger home ranges. Male Elaphe had larger home ranges than females despite not moving further, whereas male Coluber had comparable home ranges to females despite moving further. Also, Elaphe home ranges in Illinois were substantially smaller than has been documented in Ontario, despite Ontario Elaphe moving less. 7. Our results generally support the energetics hypothesis, but indicate that knowledge of ecology and energetics increases our understanding of area requirements beyond simple allometric predictions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)416-424
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Animal Ecology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Coluber constrictor
  • Elaphe obsoleta
  • Energetics
  • Radio telemetry
  • Spatial ecology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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