Cross-dressing in the snake world

hat all males went through upon awakening from hibernation. Shine and his colleagues suggest that she-maleness suppresses the snakes' urge to court females while they are still weak from hibernation, preventing them from wasting valuable energy on courting when they are likely to fail. Masquerading as females also confuses other males, distracting them from true females.

"We call this kind of behaviour 'spite'," says Morris Gosling, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Newcastle. "The she-males diminish the costs of courtship at the same time as duping other males."


Contact: Claire Bowles
New Scientist

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