In nature, organisms spend various amounts of time and energy engaged in different activities (ex. feeding, sleeping, mating). During certain times of the year, both time and energy may be a limited resource, and when they are invested into one activity they cannot be simultaneously invested in another. In these cases, organisms must compromise and divide their time and energy among competing activities. These compromises are referred to as life history tradeoffs.
For many organisms, reproduction can take up large portions of an animal’s energy reserves and can be very time consuming. This is especially true for females. During pregnancy, females must carry around the weight of developing offspring in addition to providing nutrients. These costs of reproduction may interfere with other activities that females might engage in like foraging and feeding. Previous studies have shown that reproductive females can exhibit seasonal anorexia, where females will cease feeding during the reproductive season. Seasonal anorexia is hypothesized to alleviate conflicts between reproduction and feeding by allowing a female more time and energy to engage in reproductive activities. Drs. Javier A. Rodríguez-Robles, Xavier Glaudas and I decided to investigate possible tradeoffs between reproduction and feeding in the Sidewinder Rattlesnake (Crotalus cerastes).
To help answer our questions regarding the feeding behavior of Sidewinders during the reproductive season, we dissected museum specimens and checked their stomach for prey items (lizards, rodents, birds). We checked to see if the frequency in which we found prey, differed during certain times of the year.
The results of our study were published in the journal Copeia [PDF]
Webber, M.M, X. Glaudas and J.A. Rodríguez-Robles. 2012. Do Sidewinder Rattlesnakes (Crotalus cerastes) Cease Feeding during the Breeding Season? Copeia 2012 (1): 100-105.