Quantifying Color Pattern Mimicry and Background Color-Matching in Rock Rattlesnakes (Crotalus lepidus) and Gray-Banded Kingsnakes (Lampropeltis alterna) Utilizing Digital Photography

Rhoads, Dustin                                                                                                                              subocs@gmail.com
Department of Biology                                                                                                                      

Texas Christian University
Fort Worth, TX USA                                                                                                                         


Pikstein, Rachel                                                                                                             rpbiologist@gmail.com                                                                                                                                

College of Science, Engineering & Technology                                                                                

Grand Canyon University
Phoenix, AZ USA                                                                                                 

Quantifying color-matching among organisms and their environments has been a challenge for ecologists due to the qualitative nature of the variable and a lack of affordable technology for such assessments. Many longstanding hypotheses regarding color-pattern mimicry and crypsis remain untested due to these constraints. Here, we test a previously proposed hypothesis that Gray-Banded Kingsnakes mimic sympatric pit vipers in the Trans-Pecos and Big Bend regions of the Chihuahuan Desert using a newly available and affordable technology for measuring color-matching. We also utilize the same method to measure the influence of background color-matching between these snakes and their natural substrates, as their color-pattern phenotype is likely reflective of an interplay among varying selective pressures in these taxa. Results aim to address these hypotheses while providing further implications for the use of this technology in fields such as evolution and conservation biology.

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