Tail shakes affect snakes
What is it about?
Why do ground squirrels approach rattlesnakes and wave their tail side-to-side (tail flagging)? Using radio telemetry and portable video surveillance equipment, we found that tail-flagging signals a squirrel's vigilance, which deters snakes from striking because the squirrel is ready to dodge the strike. In addition, tail-flagging communicates the presence of the snake to neighboring squirrels, which causes the snake to abandon its hunt early because its unlikely to be successful.
Why is it important?
Our results provide the first empirical evidence of the mechanisms by which a prey display, although frequently given in the absence of a predator, may still deter predators during encounters.
The following have contributed to this page: Dr Matt Barbour