Social dynamics of group courtship behavior in male red-sided garter snakes (Thamnophis sirtalis parietalis)

J Comp Psychol. 1985 Jun;99(2):145-9.


Mating in red-sided garter snakes is characterized by the formation of mating balls. Up to 100 males simultaneously court single females. The social dynamics of the formation of these mating balls was examined to determine whether the mating balls are formed simply because of a common attraction to the female or whether males are stimulated by the mating balls themselves. A sexually attractive female garter snake appears to be even more attractive to a male when she is being courted by other males than when she is alone. Male garter snakes courted females more actively when other males were also courting the female than when they were alone with her. There is a positive correlation between the number of additional males present and the amount of courtship activity shown by the test male toward the stimulus female. The extent to which the courtship activity of the test males was stimulated by the presence of additional courting males was not influenced by how actively the additional males courted.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Courtship*
  • Female
  • Male
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal*
  • Snakes*
  • Social Behavior*
  • Social Environment