Energy Metrics of Red-Sided Garter Snakes (thamnophis Sirtalis Parietalis) Vary with Sex but Not Life-History Stage

Published In

Physiological and Biochemical Zoology

Document Type


Publication Date



Because reproduction is energetically expensive, an organism’s energy stores are likely involved in mediating transitions between reproductive and self-maintenance activities. We investigated whether body condition index, adipocyte follicle size, and liver glycogen differ with the life-history transition from reproduction to migration and foraging in red-sided garter snakes (Thamnophis sirtalis parietalis). Females primarily investing in mating behavior located at the den had a significantly higher body condition index than females migrating to summer feeding grounds. The body condition index of male snakes did not differ between snakes located at the den and those migrating to summer feeding grounds. Neither adipocyte follicle area nor liver glycogen stores differed significantly between snakes performing mating activities at the den and those migrating to summer feeding grounds. We did find a sexual dimorphism in that female red-sided garter snakes had significantly larger adipocyte follicles and higher liver glycogen compared with males. Our findings support the across-species phenomenon of females and males displaying a sexual dimorphism in stored energy substrates. Conversely, we did not find evidence to suggest that red-sided garter snakes primarily utilize fatty acids to fuel the initiation of migration, a finding that is not consistent with other long-distance migrators, such as birds. Because we did not find evidence to suggest that stored energy metrics influence the decision to migrate, a physiological mechanism that induces migration in red-sided garter snakes remains elusive.


Copyright 2020 by The University of Chicago

Locate the Document




Persistent Identifier