Snakes

Snakes: Ecology and Conservation

STEPHEN J. MULLIN
RICHARD A. SEIGEL
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: 1
Published by: Cornell University Press,
Pages: 384
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7591/j.ctt7zdg6
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  • Book Info
    Snakes
    Book Description:

    Destruction of habitat due to urban sprawl, pollution, and deforestation has caused population declines or even extinction of many of the world's approximately 2,600 snake species. Furthermore, misconceptions about snakes have made them among the most persecuted of all animals, despite the fact that less than a quarter of all species are venomous and most species are beneficial because they control rodent pests. It has become increasingly urgent, therefore, to develop viable conservation strategies for snakes and to investigate their importance as monitors of ecosystem health and indicators of habitat sustainability.

    In the first book on snakes written with a focus on conservation, editors Stephen J. Mullin and Richard A. Seigel bring together leading herpetologists to review and synthesize the ecology, conservation, and management of snakes worldwide. These experts report on advances in current research and summarize the primary literature, presenting the most important concepts and techniques in snake ecology and conservation. The common thread of conservation unites the twelve chapters, each of which addresses a major subdiscipline within snake ecology. Applied topics such as methods and modeling and strategies such as captive rearing and translocation are also covered. Each chapter provides an essential framework and indicates specific directions for future research, making this a critical reference for anyone interested in vertebrate conservation generally or for anyone implementing conservation and management policies concerning snake populations.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-5909-2
    Subjects: Zoology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
    Stephen J. Mullin and Richard A. Seigel
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. List of Contributors
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  6. Introduction: Opening Doors for Snake Conservation
    (pp. 1-4)
    STEPHEN J. MULLIN and RICHARD A. SEIGEL

    An unfortunate certainty associated with the ever-growing human population is the loss or alteration of habitat. Coupled with this population increase, technological advances have allowed humans to become more mobile, and with that mobility comes the increased likelihood that other organisms will—intentionally or not—move with them. These are just a few of the reasons why many species of nonhuman organisms are experiencing population declines. Although many people are willing to extend some effort for conservation when endearing animals like pandas or parrots are concerned, the sympathy extended to the marvelous variety of snake species is rather limited. This...

  7. 1 Innovative Methods for Studies of Snake Ecology and Conservation
    (pp. 5-37)
    MICHAEL E. DORCAS and JOHN D. WILLSON

    Snakes are fascinating to many laypeople and scientists alike, and numerous studies of snake ecology and natural history have been conducted. For nearly all snake species, however, a comprehensive understanding of their ecology, and especially population biology, is lacking. Such gaps in our knowledge limit our ability to develop effective conservation and management strategies or, more often, prohibit arguments that conservation is needed at all. We argue that snakes, although often challenging to study, offer many opportunities for ecological study unparalleled by other taxa.

    One of the main reasons ecologists often shy away from snakes as study animals is the...

  8. 2 Molecular Phylogeography of Snakes
    (pp. 38-77)
    FRANK T. BURBRINK and TODD A. CASTOE

    Phylogeography is a relatively young field that investigates the historical and contemporary processes that affect the geographic distribution of genealogical lineages, particularly those at the intraspecific level (Graves et al. 1984; Avise et al. 1987; Avise 1998). Phylogeography occupies a place between microevolutionary (demography, population genetics, and ethology) and macroevolutionary (systematics, historical biogeography, and paleoecology) fields (Avise 2000). Ironically, since the term was coined, the lines that demarcate phylogeography from phylogenetic and population genetic studies has substantially blurred, and it may be more reasonable to consider this subdiscipline to be research that incorporates both macro- and microevolutionary processes rather than...

  9. 3 Population and Conservation Genetics
    (pp. 78-122)
    RICHARD B. KING

    Population genetics addresses the effects that microevolutionary processes have on patterns of genetic variation within and among populations (Hedrick 2000; Hartl and Clark 2006). Key processes include natural selection, gene flow, genetic drift, mutation, mating system, and metapopulation dynamics. Historically, discrete traits with simple modes of inheritance, such as visible polymorphisms determined by single autosomal loci, were the focus of population genetic analysis. Over time, however, the field has become increasingly broad with development of molecular techniques. Initially used to assess protein variation (e.g., venom and allozymes), these techniques have subsequently provided direct measures of DNA-based variation. In addition, although...

  10. 4 Modeling Snake Distribution and Habitat
    (pp. 123-148)
    CHRISTOPHER L. JENKINS, CHARLES R. PETERSON and BRUCE A. KINGSBURY

    Modeling the distribution of organisms is a diverse, active field (Morrison and Hall 2002; Scott et al. 2002a). In the last few decades, technological developments (e.g., geographic information systems [GISs], global positioning systems [GPSs], and remote sensing) and conceptual advances (e.g., application of scale, multivariate statistics, and geostatistics) have made modeling feasible. We use the term GIS to refer to a general technical approach (i.e., the combination of hardware and software) or to a specific system to store, process, analyze, and visualize spatial data. A GIS can be used to combine logical and statistical analyses of environmental and animal data...

  11. 5 Linking Behavioral Ecology to Conservation Objectives
    (pp. 149-171)
    PATRICK J. WEATHERHEAD and THOMAS MADSEN

    In the introduction to one of the first books linking behavioral ecology and conservation, Caro (1998) pointed out why, on the one hand, these two fields appear to have little in common while, on the other hand, making the case that behavioral ecology can contribute meaningfully to conservation. The focus of behavioral ecology is on individuals and on how their behavior and morphology affect their survival and reproductive success. The focus of conservation biology is on populations and species and on the ecological factors that affect their abundance and persistence. The link between these two disciplines arises from how the...

  12. 6 Reproductive Biology, Population Viability, and Options for Field Management
    (pp. 172-200)
    RICHARD SHINE and XAVIER BONNET

    No individual organism is immortal, so the viability of any biological population ultimately depends on reproductive success. Over a broad spatial scale, the balance between the rates of production of new individuals (reproduction) and the rates of loss (mortality) determines the number of animals within any population. Thus, the challenge for conservation biologists is to understand both sides of this equation. Frequently, attention is focused largely on the determinants of mortality and, thus, on processes such as predation, depletion of resources, disease, competition from invasive species, and anthropogenic sources of mortality. All are major threats to population viability in a...

  13. 7 Conservation Strategies: Captive Rearing, Translocation, and Repatriation
    (pp. 201-220)
    BRUCE A. KINGSBURY and OMAR ATTUM

    The documented declines in snake populations necessitate identifying approaches for enhancing recruitment that go beyond habitat protection. Examples include habitat restorations and manipulations (see Shoemaker et al., Chapter 8), examining ways to enhance reproductive success (Shine and Bonnet, Chapter 6), and even manipulation of populations themselves. As we begin to succeed at restoring lost habitat to better support viable populations of snakes, we need the tools to replace species lost as a consequence of former degradation. Ideally, any such actions are conducted based on scientifically sound information and with a clear plan for success. These conservation approaches must be planned...

  14. 8 Habitat Manipulation as a Viable Conservation Strategy
    (pp. 221-243)
    KEVIN T. SHOEMAKER, GLENN JOHNSON and KENT A. PRIOR

    Fifteen years ago, in a volume otherwise focusing on snake ecology and behavior, Seigel and Collins (1993) saw fit to include a chapter on snake conservation (Dodd 1993b). In his chapter, Dodd bemoaned the unquestioned acceptance of habitat manipulation practices such as conservation corridors and road-crossing structures: “there is an urgent need to evaluate what are rapidly becoming accepted . . . management techniques” (1993b: 384). In an effort to provide managers, planners, and field practitioners with a framework for making informed habitat management decisions, in this chapter we review the use of habitat manipulation in snake conservation, evaluate the...

  15. 9 Snakes as Indicators and Monitors of Ecosystem Properties
    (pp. 244-261)
    STEVEN J. BEAUPRE and LARA E. DOUGLAS

    Efforts to conserve snake species inevitably occur in the context of conservation plans related to other organisms, typically those organisms prioritized by managers and the public. In comparison with concerns about the populations of organisms deemed important for recreational, economic, or aesthetic reasons, snakes in need of protection may be overlooked or deprioritized. In some cases, snakes have been vilified as harmful to humans or to at-risk species that might be potential snake prey items (Dodd 1987; Scott and Seigel 1992). Concerns about snake species are difficult to address under policies that view snake conservation as antagonistic or, at best,...

  16. 10 Combating Ophiophobia: Origins, Treatment, Education, and Conservation Tools
    (pp. 262-280)
    GORDON M. BURGHARDT, JAMES B. MURPHY, DAVID CHISZAR and MICHAEL HUTCHINS

    Human attitudes toward snakes have ranged from fascination, awe, and worship to fear and loathing (Aymar 1956; Morris and Morris 1965). Certainly, the latter attitude is prevalent in many countries today, even in those viewed as civilized, educated, and environmentally enlightened. Popular entertainment continues to play on fears of snakes, as well as spiders, bats, and other animals. But is fear and antipathy toward snakes universal and inevitable? The theme of this chapter is that the conservation of snakes is more difficult than for other vertebrate groups owing to the general bad reputation that snakes have in many regions of...

  17. 11 Snake Conservation, Present and Future
    (pp. 281-290)
    RICHARD A. SEIGEL and STEPHEN J. MULLIN

    In the preceding volumes of this series, the co-editors were careful to include at least one chapter that dealt specifically with the conservation of snakes (Dodd 1987, 1993b). The relatively low proportion of chapters devoted to this field did not mean that they felt that snake conservation was unimportant—quite the opposite was true. Instead, this reflected the relatively low number of studies devoted to the conservation and management of snakes before 1993. As noted in the Introduction to this volume, both of us felt that the time had come to devote an entire volume to this topic, for two...

  18. References
    (pp. 291-356)
  19. Taxonomic Index
    (pp. 357-361)
  20. Subject Index
    (pp. 362-366)