SREL Reprint #0305




Reproduction, Growth, and Sexual Dimorphism in the Canebrake Rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus atricaudatus)

J. Whitfield Gibbons



Information on reproduction and growth in the canebrake rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus atricaudatus) was obtained from specimens collected over a three year period on the Savannah River Plant near Aiken, South Carolina. Mean litter size is 12.5 and apparently does not increase as a function of female body size. A biennial, or possibly triennial female reproductive cycle occurs in the region. Size of the fat bodies seems related to the reproductive state of the adult females. The amount of fat increases during the first summer of yolking but it is significantly reduced in females with embryos the following spring. Immediately after parturition in late rammer the fat stores are extremely diminished. Canebrakes average 38 cm in snout-vent length and 31 g in body weight shortly after birth in late summer. A length of 65-85 cm is attained by the end of the following summer. They are over 90 cm long by the end of the third summer. Females exceed 100 cm in snout-vent length and weigh over 700 g when mature. They presumably have their first litter in late summer or fall, six years after birth. Males are mature at 90-100 cm in length and are probably reproductively active in their fourth year. Male C. horridus get longer and heavier than females. It is suggested that size superiority in combat dances may be a factor that has favored selection for larger males.


SREL Reprint #0305

Gibbons, J.W. 1972. Reproduction, growth and sexual dimorphism in the canebrake rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus atricaudatus). Copeia 1972:222-226.

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