Abstract

We studied the reproductive and trophic ecology of a group of aquatic and semi-aquatic snakes that face severe hunting pressure in Cambodia. Over a two-year period we sampled hunters' catches, measuring and dissecting a total of 8982 specimens of seven snake species, five of which belong to the family Homalopsidae. The seven species—Enhydris enhydris, Enhydris longicauda, Homalopsis buccata, Enhydris bocourti, Erpeton tentaculatus, Xenochrophis piscator, and Cylindrophis ruffus—all inhabit Tonle Sap Lake, the largest lake in South-East Asia. All species are sexually dimorphic in either body size or tail length. The larger species, E. bocourti and H. buccata, have a larger size at maturity, and the non-homalopsids, X. piscator and C. ruffus, have the highest and lowest fecundities, respectively. Clutch size increases significantly with female body size in all species, and with body condition in E. enhydris. Our data also suggest that relative investment in reproduction increases with size in E. enhydris, which has the largest sample size. All species except one are synchronized in their timing of reproduction with the seasonally receding flood waters of the lake. There was variation in both the frequency of feeding and the prey size and type among species, with the homalopsids more similar to one another than to the other non-homalopsid species. The prey to predator mass ratio ranged from 0.04 to 0.1 in the homalopsids, compared to 0.15 to 0.17 in the non-homalopsids. There was also variation in the feeding frequency between the sexes that differed between species and six species continued to feed while gravid. These detailed life history analyses can help provide a basis for assessing conservation options for these heavily exploited species.

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