BIO 203


Being a predator and a top level predator in the ecosystem that the Western Cottonmouth lives in tends to put a slight damper on the relations that it may have with other organisms.  You probably won't see the Cottonmouth asking a turtle or frog to go play hide and go seek, well maybe you will but if the snake finds the frog, the frog loses more than just a game.  The relations however are usually observed to be predator and prey types of relations.



One such relation is that of the Western Cottonmouth (Agkistrodon piscivorous leucostoma) and the Northern Water Snake (Nerodia sipedon).  This relation is a predator and prey relation with the Northern Water Snake losing out.  The Northern Water Snake occupies the same regions as the Cottonmouth and will consume the same types of prey items as the cottonmouth.  It can be assumed that the Cottonmouth may have consumed the Northern Water Snake over time and gradually acquired a “taste” for the snake. This could have originated as a competition for the same food resources.

One interaction that the Western Cottonmouth has become known for is its aggressive behavior toward humans and other organisms.  This is a falsification and exaggeration.  The Cottonmouth is not an aggressive species, but has gotten the reputation due to the fact that if cornered the snake will strike to defend itself (so don’t corner the snake, or any snake for that matter).  This is evolution at its finest, the development of the "Flight or Fight" response is proven.  The snake would strike a human if threatened to defend itself if it can gauge that it has a chance of winning or it will simply attempt to flee.  But, a truly aggressive animal, even more so than the Western Cottonmouth, is the Honey Badger.  Just go ahead and read about this animal (or even check out YouTube).



If you were a Western Cottonmouth and you encountered another Western Cottonmouth, you better be prepared to fight the other cottonmouth.  That relationship does exist and has been recorded in documented literature.  Western Cottonmouths have been seen performing combat dances with each other and even on rare occasions striking and biting one another.



Continue to learn more about the "personal" interactions of the "special" nature in the reproduction section.