Journal article

Accidental altruism in insular pit-vipers (Gloydius shedaoensis, Viperidae)

R Shine, LX Sun, M Fitzgerald, M Kearney



Darwinian theory predicts that organisms will display traits that benefit themselves rather than other individuals; exceptions to this rule usually are explicable by kin selection. Our studies on an insular population of venomous snakes in north-eastern China reveal a different situation. Only one species of snake (Gloydius shedaoensis, Viperidae) occurs on the island of Shedao, and displays altruism between size (age) classes. First, small snakes frequently kill prey items larger than they can swallow themselves. This behaviour enhances rates of feeding of larger conspecifics, which scavenge the birds' carcasses. Second, large snakes kill raptorial birds (sparrowhawks Accipiter nisus) that ..

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University of Melbourne Researchers