The brown tree snake, which is nocturnal, was accidentally introduced to Guam in the late 1940s or early 1950s.
A team of researchers from Colorado State University and the University of Cincinnati have discovered a new mode of snake locomotion that allows the brown tree snake to ascend much larger smooth cylinders than any previously known behavior.
This lasso locomotion, named because of a lasso-like body posture, may contribute to the success and impact of this highly invasive species. It allows these animals to access potential prey that might otherwise be unobtainable and may also explain how this species could climb power poles, leading to electrical outages.
Researchers said they hope the findings will help people protect endangered birds from the snakes.
The study, “Lasso locomotion expands the climbing repertoire of snakes,” is published Jan. 11 in Current Biology.
‘Unexpected’ locomotion discovered on U.S. island territory of Guam
For nearly 100 years, all snake locomotion has been traditionally categorized into four modes: rectilinear, lateral undulation, sidewinding and concertina.
This new discovery of a fifth mode of locomotion was the unexpected result of a project led by CSU Emeritus Professor Julie Savidge aimed at protecting the nests of Micronesia starlings, one of only two native forest species still remaining on Guam.
Savidge, part of the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Biology at CSU, said that the brown tree snake has decimated forest bird populations on Guam, where the discovery took place. The snake, which is nocturnal, was accidentally introduced to Guam in the late 1940s or early 1950s. Shortly thereafter, bird populations started to decline.
The scientist conducted her doctoral dissertation research on Guam in the 1980s and identified the snake as the culprit for the loss of birds. The animal has caused extensive damage and
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