Body awareness was studied experimentally in the rat snakes Elaphe radiata
. The experimental design required that the snakes take into account the limits of their bodies when choosing a suitable hole for penetration into the shelter. The experimental setup consisted of two compartments, a launch chamber and a shelter, separated by a partition with openings of different diameters. The diameters of the holes and/or their position in the partition were changeable. The subjects were 20 snakes divided into two groups, for one of which only the locations of the holes varied; for another, both the location of the holes and the limits of the body varied. The body was increased by feeding the snakes. In the course of the first three experimental series the snakes formed the skill of taking into account the body limits, which manifested in the reduced number of unsuccessful attempts to select holes too small for their bodies. During the fourth series, with the locations of holes randomized for each trial, the snakes demonstrated behavioral flexibility, significantly more often penetrating into the shelter from the first attempt irrespectively of the location of the suitable hole. We argue that these results demonstrate the body-awareness in snakes.
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