Garter snake

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The article is about North American garter snakes. Garter snake_sentence_0

For the unrelated venomous snakes of Africa also called garter snakes, see Elapsoidea. Garter snake_sentence_1

Garter snake_table_infobox_0

Garter snakeGarter snake_header_cell_0_0_0
Scientific classification ThamnophisGarter snake_header_cell_0_1_0
Kingdom:Garter snake_cell_0_2_0 AnimaliaGarter snake_cell_0_2_1
Phylum:Garter snake_cell_0_3_0 ChordataGarter snake_cell_0_3_1
Class:Garter snake_cell_0_4_0 ReptiliaGarter snake_cell_0_4_1
Order:Garter snake_cell_0_5_0 SquamataGarter snake_cell_0_5_1
Suborder:Garter snake_cell_0_6_0 SerpentesGarter snake_cell_0_6_1
Family:Garter snake_cell_0_7_0 ColubridaeGarter snake_cell_0_7_1
Subfamily:Garter snake_cell_0_8_0 NatricinaeGarter snake_cell_0_8_1
Genus:Garter snake_cell_0_9_0 Thamnophis

Fitzinger, 1843Garter snake_cell_0_9_1

SpeciesGarter snake_header_cell_0_10_0
SynonymsGarter snake_header_cell_0_11_0

Garter snake is a common name for generally harmless, small to medium-sized snakes belonging to the genus Thamnophis. Garter snake_sentence_2

Endemic to North and Central America, species in the genus Thamnophis can be found from the subarctic plains of Canada to Costa Rica. Garter snake_sentence_3

The common garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis) is the state reptile of Massachusetts. Garter snake_sentence_4

Garter snakes vary in length from 46 to 137 cm (18 to 54 in), and weigh approximately 140 g (5 oz). Garter snake_sentence_5

With no real consensus on the classification of species of Thamnophis, disagreement between taxonomists and sources such as field guides over whether two types of snakes are separate species or subspecies of the same species is common. Garter snake_sentence_6

Garter snakes are closely related to the genus Nerodia (water snakes), with some species having been moved back and forth between genera. Garter snake_sentence_7

Taxonomy Garter snake_section_0

The genus Thamnophis was described by Leopold Fitzinger in 1843 as the genus for the garter snakes and ribbon snakes. Garter snake_sentence_8

Many snakes previously identified as their own genera or species have been reclassified as species or subspecies in Thamnophis. Garter snake_sentence_9

There are currently 35 species within the genus, with several subspecies within some of them. Garter snake_sentence_10

Habitat Garter snake_section_1

Garter snakes are present throughout most of North America. Garter snake_sentence_11

They have a wide distribution due to their varied diets and adaptability to different habitats, with varying proximity to water; however, in the western part of North America, these snakes are more aquatic than in the eastern portion. Garter snake_sentence_12

Garter snakes populate a variety of habitats, including forests, woodlands, fields, grasslands, and lawns, but never far away from some form of water, often an adjacent wetland, stream, or pond. Garter snake_sentence_13

This reflects the fact that amphibians are a large part of their diet. Garter snake_sentence_14

Behavior Garter snake_section_2

Garter snakes have complex systems of pheromonal communication. Garter snake_sentence_15

They can find other snakes by following their pheromone-scented trails. Garter snake_sentence_16

Male and female skin pheromones are so different as to be immediately distinguishable. Garter snake_sentence_17

However, male garter snakes sometimes produce both male and female pheromones. Garter snake_sentence_18

During the mating season, this ability fools other males into attempting to mate with them. Garter snake_sentence_19

This causes the transfer of heat to them in kleptothermy, which is an advantage immediately after hibernation, allowing them to become more active. Garter snake_sentence_20

Male snakes giving off both male and female pheromones have been shown to garner more copulations than normal males in the mating balls that form at the den when females enter the mating melee. Garter snake_sentence_21

Garter snakes use the vomeronasal organ to communicate via pheromones through the tongue flicking behavior which gathers chemical cues in the environment. Garter snake_sentence_22

Upon entering the lumen of the organ, the chemical molecules will come into contact with the sensory cells which are attached to the neurosensory epithelium of the vomeronasal organ. Garter snake_sentence_23

If disturbed, a garter snake may coil and strike, but typically it will hide its head and flail its tail. Garter snake_sentence_24

These snakes will also discharge a malodorous, musky-scented secretion from a gland near the cloaca. Garter snake_sentence_25

They often use these techniques to escape when ensnared by a predator. Garter snake_sentence_26

They will also slither into the water to escape a predator on land. Garter snake_sentence_27

Birds of prey, crows, egrets, herons, cranes, raccoons, otters, and other snake species (such as coral snakes and kingsnakes) will eat garter snakes, with even shrews and frogs eating the juveniles. Garter snake_sentence_28

Being heterothermic, like all reptiles, garter snakes bask in the sun to regulate their body temperature. Garter snake_sentence_29

During brumation (the reptile equivalent of hibernation), garter snakes typically occupy large, communal sites called hibernacula. Garter snake_sentence_30

These snakes will migrate large distances to brumate. Garter snake_sentence_31

Diet Garter snake_section_3

Garter snakes, like all snakes, are carnivorous. Garter snake_sentence_32

Their diet consists of almost any creature they are capable of overpowering: slugs, earthworms (nightcrawlers, as red wigglers are toxic to garter snakes), leeches, lizards, amphibians (including frog eggs), minnows, and rodents. Garter snake_sentence_33

When living near water, they will eat other aquatic animals. Garter snake_sentence_34

The ribbon snake (Thamnophis sauritus) in particular favors frogs (including tadpoles), readily eating them despite their strong chemical defenses. Garter snake_sentence_35

Food is swallowed whole. Garter snake_sentence_36

Garter snakes often adapt to eating whatever they can find and whenever they can find it because food can be either scarce or abundant. Garter snake_sentence_37

Although they feed mostly on live animals, they will sometimes eat eggs. Garter snake_sentence_38

Venom Garter snake_section_4

Garter snakes were long thought to be nonvenomous, but discoveries in the early 2000s revealed that they in fact produce a neurotoxic venom. Garter snake_sentence_39

Despite this, garter snakes cannot seriously injure or kill humans with the small amounts of comparatively mild venom they produce, and they also lack an effective means of delivering it. Garter snake_sentence_40

In a few very rare cases, some swelling and bruising have been reported. Garter snake_sentence_41

They do have enlarged teeth in the back of their mouths, but their gums are significantly larger, and the secretions of their Duvernoy's gland are only mildly toxic. Garter snake_sentence_42

Evidence suggests that garter snake and newt populations share an evolutionary link in their levels of tetrodotoxin (TTX) resistance, implying co-evolution between predator and prey. Garter snake_sentence_43

Garter snakes feeding upon toxic newts can also retain those toxins in their liver for weeks, making those snakes poisonous as well as venomous. Garter snake_sentence_44

Conservation status Garter snake_section_5

Despite the decline in their population from collection as pets (especially in the more northerly regions in which large groups are collected at hibernation), pollution of aquatic areas, and the introduction of American bullfrogs as potential predators, garter snakes are still some of the most commonly found reptiles in much of their ranges. Garter snake_sentence_45

The San Francisco garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis tetrataenia), however, is an endangered subspecies and has been on the endangered list since 1969. Garter snake_sentence_46

Predation by crayfish has also been responsible for the decline of the narrow-headed garter snake (Thamnophis rufipunctatus). Garter snake_sentence_47

Species and subspecies Garter snake_section_6

Arranged alphabetically by scientific name: Garter snake_sentence_48

Garter snake_unordered_list_0

Garter snake_unordered_list_1

  • Western terrestrial garter snake, T. elegans (Baird & Girard, 1853)Garter snake_item_1_14
    • Arizona garter snake, T. e. arizonae W. Tanner & Lowe, 1989Garter snake_item_1_15
    • Mountain garter snake, T. e. elegans (Baird & Girard, 1853)Garter snake_item_1_16
    • San Pedro Mártir garter snake, T. e. hueyi Van Denburgh & Slevin, 1923Garter snake_item_1_17
    • Coastal garter snake, T. e. terrestris Fox, 1951Garter snake_item_1_18
    • Wandering garter snake, T. e. vagrans (Baird & Girard, 1853)Garter snake_item_1_19
    • Upper Basin garter snake, T. e. vascotanneri W. Tanner & Lowe, 1989Garter snake_item_1_20
  • Mexican garter snake, T. eques (, 1834)Garter snake_item_1_21
    • Mexican garter snake, T. e. eques (Reuss, 1834)Garter snake_item_1_22
    • Laguna Totolcingo garter snake, T. e. carmenensis Conant, 2003Garter snake_item_1_23
    • T. e. cuitzeoensis Conant, 2003Garter snake_item_1_24
    • T. e. diluvialis Conant, 2003Garter snake_item_1_25
    • T. e. insperatus Conant, 2003Garter snake_item_1_26
    • Northern Mexican garter snake, T. e. megalops (Kennicott, 1860)Garter snake_item_1_27
    • T. e. obscurus Conant, 2003Garter snake_item_1_28
    • T. e. patzcuaroensis Conant, 2003Garter snake_item_1_29
    • T. e. scotti Conant, 2003Garter snake_item_1_30
    • T. e. virgatenuis Conant, 1963Garter snake_item_1_31
  • Mexican wandering garter snake, T. errans H. M. Smith, 1942Garter snake_item_1_32

Garter snake_unordered_list_2

Garter snake_unordered_list_3

Nota bene: In the above list, a binomial authority or a trinomial authority in parentheses indicates that the species or subspecies was originally described in a genus other than Thamnophis. Garter snake_sentence_49

See also Garter snake_section_7

Garter snake_unordered_list_4


Credits to the contents of this page go to the authors of the corresponding Wikipedia page: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Garter snake.