Open Access Open Access  Restricted Access Subscription or Fee Access

Records of Body Bending Behavior (‘Liana Crypsis’) in Five Snake Species in Thailand and One in Spain

Sjon Hauser, Ton Smits, Johan van Rooijen


Hitherto, body bending behavior (BBB) has been reported for less than a dozen of different snake species from tropical and subtropical America. Most authors assume that this rarely documented behavior is cryptic and antipredator, e.g., by taking the form of a liana the snake may avoid being attacked by a potential predator. We herein report the first records of this behavior in snakes in Asia and Europe. A dozen cases of body bending are documented for the colubrids Coelognathus radiatus (Boie, 1827), Ptyas carinata (Günther, 1858) and Oligodon joynsoni (Smith, 1917), and Malpolon monspessulanus (Hermann, 1804), and the natricids Fowlea piscator (Schneider, 1799) and Rhabdophis siamensis (Mell, 1931). In addition to the earlier reports from the New World, we suggest that BBB is widespread in snakes throughout the tropical and subtropical world. For a number of species that display it relatively frequently, such as C. radiatus in Thailand, BBB may have a significant adaptive value. We propose that this behavior is basically a kind of defensive immobility response that may develop swiftly or rather slowly and which is most often associated with diurnal activity, open spaces and an inclination to aggressive defenses. Our data suggest that its function is more often aposematic than cryptic.


antipredator behavior; aposematism; body bending; colubrids; immobility; kinking; Spain; Thailand

Full Text:



Abuys A. (1986), «The snakes of Surinam, part XIII: Subfamily Xenodontinae (genera Pseudoeryx, Pseustes and Rhadinaea)», Litt. Serpentium, 6, 19 – 30.

Andrews K. M. and Gibbons J. W. (2005), «Dissimilarities in behavioral responses of snakes to roads and vehicles have implications for differential impacts across species», in: On the Road to Stewardship. Wildlife Impacts and Conservation Solutions, ICOET 2005 Proc., pp. 339 – 350.

Andrews K. M. and Gibbons W. (2008), in: J. B. Jensen, C. D. Camp, J. W. Gibbons, and M. J. Elliott (eds.), Amphibians and Reptiles of Georgia, Univ. of Georgia Press, Athens, GA.

Beebe W. (1946), «Field notes on the snakes of Kartabo, British Guiana and Caripito, Venezuela», Zoology, 31, 11 – 52.

Blouin-Demers G. and Weatherhead P. J. (2001), «Habitat use by black rat snakes (Elaphe obsoleta obsoleta) in fragmented forests», Ecology, 82(10), 2882 – 2896.

Davis Rabosky A. R., Moore T. Y., Sánchez-Paredes C. M., Westeen E. P., Larson J. G., Sealey B. A., and Balinsky B. A. (2019), «Convergence and divergence in anti-predator displays: A novel approach to quantitative behavioural comparison in snakes», bioRxiv, Nov. 21, 2019. DOI: 10.1101/849703.

Doherty-Bone T. M. (2009), «Elaphe obsoleta spilodes (Grey Rat Snake): body bending behaviour», Herpetol. Bull., 109, 38 – 39.

Duarte M. R. (2012), «The intriguing ‘Liana-mimicry’ or ‘Body bending’ behaviour in snakes: cryptic or signalling behaviour?» Herpetol. Notes, 5, 303 – 304.

Durso A. M. and Mullin S. J. (2014), «Intrinsic and extensic factors influence expression of defensive behavior in Plains Hog-nosed Snakes (Heterodon nasicus)», Ethology, 120, 140 – 148.

Gans C. (1970), «How snakes move», Sci. Am., June 1970.

Gibbons W. (2017), Snakes of the Eastern United States, Univ. of Georgia Press, Athens, GA.

Gumprecht A. (2003), «Coelognathus radiatus Boie», Litt. Serpentium, 23(2), 11 – 19.

Hertz P. E., Huey R. B., and Nevo E. (1982), «Fight versus flight: Body temperature influences defensive responses of lizards», Anim. Behav., 30, 676 – 679.

Jayne B. C, Newman S. J., Zentkovich M. M., and Berns H. M. (2015), «Why arboreal snakes should not be cylindrical: body shape, incline and surface roughness have interactive effects on locomotion», J. Exp. Biol., 218, 3978 – 3886.

Jintakune P. (2004), Ngu Phit Nai Prathet Thai [Venomous snakes in Thailand], Matichon, Bangkok [in Thai].

Llewelyn J., Webb J. K., and Shine R. (2010), «Flexible defense: context-dependent antipredator responses of two species of Australian elapid snakes», Herpetologica, 66(1), 1 – 11.

Maddock S., Tolhurst B., Brown M., Peck M., Pérez E. V., and Morales J. N. (2011), «Body bending behaviour: more widespread than previously thought? New reports from two snake species of Northwest Ecuador», Herpetol. Notes, 4, 79 – 81.

Marques O. V., Rodrigues M. G., and Sazima I. (2006). «Body bending: a cryptic defense behaviour in arboreal snakes», Herpetol. Bull., 97, 2 – 4.

Mattison C. (1998), The Encyclopedia of Snakes, Blanford, London.

Miranda J. P., Lopes Costa J. C., and Rocha C. F. D. (2012), «Body-bending behaviour: a new instance in a terrestrial snake from Brazil», Herpetol. Bull., 122, 34 – 36.

Mori A. and Burghardt G. M. (2001), «Temperature effects on anti-predator behaviour in Rhabdophis tigrinus, a snake with toxic nuchal glands», Ethology, 107, 795 – 811.

Mori A. and Burghardt G. M. (2004), «Thermal effects on the antipredator behaviour of snakes: review and proposed terminology», Herpetol. J., 14, 79 – 87.

Phansalkar P. U. and Gowande G. G. (2017), «Climbing behavior in the Checkered Keelback or Asiatic Water Snake Xenochrophis piscator (Schneider, 1799) (Colubridae: Natricinae) in the Western Ghats, India», Russ. J. Herpetol., 24(1), 73 – 74.

Purkayastha J., Kalita J., Brahma R. K., Doley R., and Das M. (2018), «A review of the relationships of Xenochrophis cerasogaster Cantor, 1839 (Serpentes: Colubridae) to its congeners», Zootaxa, 4514(1), 126 – 136.

Rowland L. A., Bal N. C., and Periasamy M. (2015), «The role of skeletal-muscle-based thermogenic mechanisms in vertebrate endothermy», Biol. Rev. Camb. Philos. Soc., 90(4), 1279 – 1297.

Shine R., Olsson M. M., Lemaster M. P., Moore I. T., and Mason R. T. (2000), «Effects of sex, body size, temperature, and location on the antipredator tactics of free-ranging garter snakes (Thamnophis surtalis, Colubridae)», Behav. Ecol., 11(3), 239 – 245.

Souchet J. and Aubret F. (2016), «Revisiting the fear of snakes in children — the role of aposematic signalling», Sci. Rep., 6, 37619. DOI: 10.1038/srep37619

Vogel G. and Han-Yuen H. K. (2010), «Death feigning behavior in three colubrid species of tropical Asia», Russ. J. Herpetol., 17(1), 15 – 21.

Vogel G. and David P. (2012). «A revision of the species group of Xenochrophis piscator (Schneider, 1799) (Squamata: Natricidae)», Zootaxa, 3473, 1 – 60.



  • There are currently no refbacks.

You can subscribe to the print or electronic version of the journal on the site of EastView Company. If you have any questions, please write to the email