Garter snake courtship can be even more extreme. Instead, evolution may have driven female snakes to grow larger. In anacondas, females are on average 4. Polygyny, in which one male mates with several females, was long thought to be the norm in snakes. What's more, contrary to early research, males typically stick with a single partner while females sleep around.
What's more, contrary to early research, males typically stick with a single partner while females sleep around. After a female emerges from hibernation and sheds her skin, she releases pheromones that draw males towards her. The trouble with all these snake orgies is that it is not clear which of the males, if any, actually succeeds in producing offspring. The anaconda's swollen body suggested she was full of food, so Rivas waited for her to throw up: Rivas and his team are currently studying the mating practices of their local garter snake population in New Mexico. Previously, scientists had assumed that female snakes are submissive during courtship and mating, but it is now clear that they have a prominent role. However, Rivas thinks that mating with many males is more likely to be a way of producing the healthiest offspring, by letting sperm competition weed out incompatible or unhealthy genes. Michael LeMaster from Western Oregon University in Monmouth found that the scent emitted by female red-sided garter snakes can convey their physical size. Another aspect of snake sex that we have got wrong is the pattern of mating. View image of A green anaconda Eunectes murinus Credit: He thinks that assumption stems from bias by early researchers, who were predominantly male. In any case, females do not necessarily pick a single suitor. Several mating groups often gather at once in crevices above ground, littering the landscape with thousands of snakes. A study also found that maternal body size can influence the young's immune systems. In anacondas, females are on average 4. Often, a dozen prospective partners present themselves , wrapping themselves around the female in a ritual that can last for up to a month. In fact female snakes are physically imposing, so it is not surprising that they can overpower — and even swallow — their mates. But most male snakes do not exhibit such stereotypically male behaviour. In many animals, males are larger than females, but for most snakes the opposite is true. Rivas thinks the females could use their sense of touch to distinguish between males. He thinks polyandry — in which each female mates with multiple males — is likely to be the ancestral mating system in snakes. View image of A breeding ball of anacondas Eunectes murinus Credit: Her startling action is part of a growing body of evidence that we have misunderstood how snakes have sex. A possible clue comes from the fact that courtship is initiated by females, not males. Rivas vividly recalls watching a male green anaconda persistently pursue a large female and later have sex with her, disregarding other mating opportunities nearby. But one thing is clear:
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