Animals
Masquerading Males
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Manitoba in Canada is renowned for having the largest concentration of snakes in the world. The snakes are non-poisonous garter snakes. Garter snakes hibernate underground in immense clusters each containing upto a thousand individuals. The snakes emerge after eight months, in early spring, to mate. When a female makes an appearance, the males immediately engulf her in a giant ‘mating ball’.
Among the females, there may be a male snake mimicking a female, what biologists call a ‘she-male’! So good is the disguise, that other males go into the usual frenzy, only to be fooled. Why do some male garter snakes behave in this way? Earlier, scientists believed that the ‘she-males’ did it to escape fighting with larger males or to gain easier access to the females. Now U.S.

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and Australian scientists have proved that since it is very cold underground, the male garter snakes emerge famished, weak and lethargic. They fall easy prey to birds like crows and magpies. The males who masquerade as females merely want to warm themselves up in the safety of the mating ball and escape the attention of predators till they are strong enough to make a run for it if attacked.



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