What Comes Before Snake Sex? A Kama Sutra of Courtship Moves

In the world's largest family of snakes, mating come-ons have evolved from chin-rubbing to "coital bites" to "tail quivers."

Drawing his chin along her skin. Coiling his body about hers. Jerking his head seductively, biting her, and vibrating his tail.

In the Kama Sutra of snake sex, these are prime mating moves among colubroids, the world's largest family grouping of snakes with some 2,500 species.

To see how snake courtship evolved, Fayetteville (North Carolina) State University herpetologist and paleontologist Phil Senter studied data on 76 snakes of the Colubroidea and Boidae groups.

From research that included studies of fossil records dating to the Cretaceous period, he found that some colubroid come-ons are ancient—chin-rubbing, jerking—while the "coital bite" and "tail quiver" began later. In all, he says, it's "quite the set of dance moves."

The snake-atop-snake courtship position called mounting is "nearly universal"

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