Malpolon behavior literature?

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Malpolon behavior literature?

Postby Ilian Velikov » Wed Dec 06, 2017 1:37 pm

I'm trying to find some literature on the behavior of Malpolon and in particular any description of that legendary courtship where the male gives prey gift to the female and so on, which was also supposedly filmed in the documentary "The King of Provence". However, I can't find any account of this online. Does anyone know of any publications that discuss this?
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Re: Malpolon behavior literature?

Postby Christoph Stenger » Wed Dec 06, 2017 1:54 pm

I used to know one but unfortunately I have forgotten. Will check my PC later and see if I can find it.
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Re: Malpolon behavior literature?

Postby Ruggero Morimando » Wed Dec 06, 2017 8:56 pm

I suggest you to take contact with De Haan (I hope to remember well the name) who was known to be an expert about this species both in the wild and in captivity. I've seen the docu film "The king of the Provence" but I cannot remember the fact that the male offered a prey to the female.
I kept for years this species in captivity and never saw such a behaviour. Never heard about this.
I've witnessed courtship both in the wild and in captivity, the marking of the body with nasal secretion both in the wild as well in terrarium, and the marking of the glass walls of the terrarium obviously in captivity. That's all I've seen, and I find Malpolon a lovely, very intelligent and interesting snake!
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Re: Malpolon behavior literature?

Postby Christoph Stenger » Wed Dec 06, 2017 10:10 pm

Sorry, Ilian, can’t find it. Must have gotten lost over the years. But I also remember having read abot the male offering prey to the female. Maybe I can find it somewhere else.

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Re: Malpolon behavior literature?

Postby Mario Schweiger » Thu Dec 07, 2017 8:23 am

I will contact Cornelius for any literature ;)
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Re: Malpolon behavior literature?

Postby Kai Kolodziej » Thu Dec 07, 2017 9:29 am

Hi,
as far as I know it was published in DE HAAN, C. (1999): Malpolon monspessulanus. In: BÖHME, W. (Ed.): Handbuch der Reptilien und Amphibien Europas. Band 3/IIA: Schlangen 2. Wiesbaden (Aula-Verlag). S. 661-756.

to be exact at page: 740

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Re: Malpolon behavior literature?

Postby Mario Schweiger » Thu Dec 07, 2017 10:20 am

Here is the answer, I've got from Cornelius:

Caro Mario ! Note please: "the male giving prey as courtship present to the female" has never been my formulation. However, the ref. you're asking for is De Haan 1999, Handbuch der R und A Europas. In M. monspessulanus, the Western Montpellier Snake, the female "decides" to leave the hiding place protected by the male and to go for finding prey. I often observed in "French or Spanish" males that the male escorts her and helps her in the field (semi free enclosure) to catch prey she attacks but sometimes misses and then she takes it immediately from the mouth of the male. In M. insignitus, the Eastern Montpellier Snake, three times in the only Anatolian couple I've had, I observed the male catching alone a prey in the "field" (interconnected cages) and putting it in the entrance of the hiding place he already shared two years with the female
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Re: Malpolon behavior literature?

Postby Ilian Velikov » Thu Dec 07, 2017 12:10 pm

Thanks everyone for your help!

Mario, thank you for contacting C. De Haan. His reply is interesting. I'm not particular about the formulation, just want to know more about this and what it is. It's a fascinating behavior from, as Ruggero pointed out, an intelligent snake which raises some questions about its cognitive abilities. Would you mind giving me the contact of De Haan, so I can maybe talk more to him about it? Maybe through PM?

Ruggero, the feeding/hunting conditions in captivity are much different from in the wild so they might not have exhibited this behavior but apparently it exists. Watch "The King of Provence" again ;) By the way I found an article which argues that the self-rubbing behavior in psammophiid snakes is not for marking territory but for protecting the snake from desiccation. I haven't read the full article yet but I'm not 100% convinced. Here's a link if anyone is interested:

http://www.salamandra-journal.com/index.php/home/contents/2013-vol-49/317-de-pury-s-w-boehme/file
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Re: Malpolon behavior literature?

Postby Ruggero Morimando » Fri Dec 08, 2017 9:40 am

Thanks Ilian.
I watched with little time at disposition the documentary (not all) on you tube, and I didn't find the sequences of the prey offering.
But I've seen the sequences of the female building her nest for the eggs: and this fact let me think about another intelligente snake species, the king cobra!
About prey offering, I do not consider impossible this fact, on the contrary. But the observation of one or only two of those types of behaviour could be also casual and not purposely intended by the male...
Just as it could happen that I lose my wallet on a street and someone picks it up... :lol:
Nasal "markings".
I do not think it's intended for protecting (?) the scales from transpiration.
In Greece I've witnessed this behaviour, and those were temperate spring days (not hot days!) during courtship season.
And: what can do against water loss (which is anyhow utmost low with thick scales!) a very subtle layer of nasal secretion?
Captivity is something else, sure.
But in the terrarium it seemed to me that during some periods the nasal glands were more "swollen" and the snakes had more urge to mark not only their belly scales, but also, and with regular zig zag designs, the walls of the terrarium. Against the evaporation of the terrarium walls in this case? :lol:
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Re: Malpolon behavior literature?

Postby Ilian Velikov » Fri Dec 08, 2017 12:29 pm

Ruggero Morimando wrote:I watched with little time at disposition the documentary (not all) on you tube, and I didn't find the sequences of the prey offering.


I have the film on CD somewhere, I'll try to find it and locate the sequence.

Ruggero Morimando wrote:But I've seen the sequences of the female building her nest for the eggs


I don't remember clearly this and the film I have is in German, which I don't speak, so I didn't understand but I'll look into it as well. It sounds interesting.

Ruggero Morimando wrote:About prey offering, I do not consider impossible this fact, on the contrary. But the observation of one or only two of those types of behaviour could be also casual and not purposely intended by the male...


I think this was observed on more occasions which for me makes it more than anecdotal records, so it is worth looking into. As for cognition and the intentions of the male I personally don't believe the male does it "by accident" and in recent years the field of ethology has grown significantly and new very "surprising" discoveries are made about species (including non-mammalian) that were not suppose to realize a lot of things but they do. I personally don't believe in the view that animals are purely instinct-driven machines. So everything is possible ;)

As for the nasal secretion I agree that marking makes more sense than skin protection but it needs further investigation.
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