Generalist Habitat Selection by Cottonmouths (Agkistrodon piscivorus) in Middle Tennessee

Kauphusman, John     

jkauphusman@my.apsu.edu

                                                                                                             

Department of Biology and                                                                                                                          

Center of Excellence for Field Biology                                                                                                   

Austin Peay State University                                                                                                                 

Clarksville, Tennessee, USA

 

Fulbright, Michael C.                                                                                                                                

Department of Biology                                                                                                                              

University of Louisiana at Lafayette                                                                                                             

Lafayette, Louisiana, USA

 

Gienger, C. M.                                                                                                                                             

Department of Biology and                                                                                                                              

Center of Excellence for Field Biology                                                                                                              

Austin Peay State University                                                                                                                        Clarksville, Tennessee, USA

 

Many snake species exhibit an ontogenetic shift in habitat preferences, as this can potentially reduce interspecific competition. We investigated the habitat selection of a Tennessee population of the Cottonmouth (Agkistrodon piscivorus) inhabiting an isolated wetland system. Principle component analysis was used to elucidate intraspecific trends in habitat selection between male, female, and juvenile cottonmouths (N = 96). We found that cottonmouths exhibited non-random habitat use, with respect to available habitat features, although there were no significant habitat differences among intraspecific groups. Previous studies of cottonmouth habitat use have observed ontogenetic shifts in habitat preferences, yet, our study detected little to no differences. The results suggest that cottonmouths do not always change habitat use through ontogeny as a mechanism to reduce intraspecific competition, and in large and/or structurally diverse wetlands, they may be habitat generalists utilizing a wide variety of resources. We suggest that trends in ontogenetic shifts in habitat use may be associated with certain landscape features, and the resources available within our system may limit spatial resource partitioning within the isolated wetland system.

 

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