The phylogenetic order Squamata has many representatives that could benefit from the use of semen preservation as a tool for assisting conservation. To date, few studies have been made evaluating the potential for collecting and preserving semen from snakes. The objectives of this study were to characterize semen parameters of the corn snake (Elaphe guttata), including appearance, volume, concentration, sperm motility, and sperm morphology, and to determine the longevity of corn snake sperm motility stored at 4°C. Single semen samples were collected from 22 adult corn snakes. The appearance of the corn snake semen was generally cloudy, and the color was white to tan. Corn snake spermatozoa initially exhibited a median motility of 92.5%. Corn snakes were found to produce small-volume ejaculates (median 0.01 ml). However, the overall concentration of the snake ejaculate was high (x̄ = 852 × 106 ± 585 × 106 spermatozoa/ml). Morphologically, a mean of 75.7 ± 9.3% of the sperm cells in an ejaculate were normal. Snake ejaculate with a white appearance had significantly higher sperm concentrations (x̄ = 1,859 × 106 ± 1,008 × 106 sperm cells/ml; F = 15.74, P = 0.001) than tan ejaculates (x̄ = 601 × 106 ± 439 × 106 sperm cells/ml). Sperm motility decreased significantly in samples that were stored at 4°C for greater than 48 hr in a refrigerator or Equitainer I. This is the first study to characterize semen volume, appearance, and concentration; sperm motility; and sperm morphology in captive corn snakes. The information derived from this study can be used to develop a model for a collection, cooled storage, and shipping program for semen from endangered or threatened captive and wild snakes.
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Vol. 38 • No. 1