Function of snake mobbing in spectral tarsiers. Academic Article uri icon


  • Numerous species are known for their tendency to approach and confront their predators as a group. This behavior is known as mobbing. Snakes seem to be one of the more consistent recipients of this type of predator-directed behavior. This paper explores individual differences (sex and age) in the mobbing behavior of the spectral tarsier toward live and model snakes. This study was conducted at Tangkoko Nature Reserve (Sulawesi, Indonesia) during 2003-2004. During this research, 11 natural mobbing events and 31 artificially induced mobbing events were observed. The mean number of individuals at a mobbing was 5.7. The duration of mobbing events was strongly correlated with the number of assembled mobbers. Adults were more likely than other age classes to participate in mobbings. Males were more likely than females to participate in mobbings. Mobbing groups often contained more than one adult male, despite the fact that no spectral tarsier group contains more than one adult male. No difference in body size between extragroup males and resident males was observed, refuting the "attract the mightier" hypothesis. The number of mobbers did not affect whether the tarsier or the snake retreated first, countering the "move-on" hypothesis. The "perception advertisement" hypothesis was tentatively supported, in that live snakes were rarely seen in the area following mobbing calls, in comparison to when tarsiers either ignored the snake or alarm call.

published proceedings

  • Am J Phys Anthropol

author list (cited authors)

  • Gursky, S

citation count

  • 24

complete list of authors

  • Gursky, Sharon

publication date

  • April 2006