Snakes have friends too

The study is the latest in a growing body of evidence that animals form tight bonds—suggesting that they’re more like us than we thought.


The eastern garter snake, Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis, is native to eastern North America.

Most of us likely consider snakes to be cold, solitary beings, as indifferent to others of their kind as they are to us.

But those notions are wrong—especially when it comes to garter snakes, a new study says.

These nonvenomous creatures, which range from the chilly plains of Canada to the forests of Costa Rica, have definitive preferences about which snakes they hang out with—in other words, they have “friends.”

“All animals—even snakes—need to interact with others,” says study leader Morgan Skinner, a doctoral candidate in behavioral ecology at Wilfrid Laurier University in Canada. To investigate this theory, Skinner devised a novel experiment to assess the personalities and sociability of eastern garter snakes (Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis).

The results showed that “like us, they seek out social contacts, and they’re choosy about whom they socialize with,” says Skinner, whose study appeared recently in Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology.

The idea that snakes have close friends may be surprising, but such relationships are increasingly being found throughout the animal kingdom, from flamingos to bats to elephants. A recent analysis of vampire batsshowed, for...

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