Arthropod Diets in Chihuahuan Desert Snakes

Victor Manuel Parga, University of Texas at El Paso


Over the past century, studies in herpetology regarding snake diets have been commonly focused on those species that feed or specialize in vertebrate prey items. For those that feed primarily on invertebrates however, little work has been done in determining diet specializations and comparing diets within a community of species. This thesis focuses on small species of snakes that feed primarily on arthropods in a Chihuahuan Desert community, and will investigate if these are diet generalists or specialists. To this end, stomach contents were examined from preserved specimens of the following species: Rena humilis and Rena dissecta (Leptotyphlopidae), Gyalopion canum (Colubridae), Sonora semiannulata (Colubridae), Tantilla hobartsmithii (Colubridae), Tantilla nigriceps (Colubridae), Diadophis punctatus (Dipsadidae), Sistrurus tergeminus (Viperidae). These specimens were drawn from northern Chihuahuan Desert populations in Trans-Pecos Texas and southern New Mexico, and represent a total of 280 individuals across the seven species. Using similar statistical methods as Hamilton et al. (2011), I found a common dietary emphasis on ground-dwelling spiders. Thus the data show signs of diet preference, and suggest that these snakes are dietary opportunists that seem to feed primarily on spiders as well as other arthropods of appropriate size that are abundant during the periods of feeding activity.

Subject Area

Ecology|Zoology|Animal sciences

Recommended Citation

Parga, Victor Manuel, "Arthropod Diets in Chihuahuan Desert Snakes" (2018). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI10822713.