Sex-biased differences in dietary habits of snakes are often linked to pronounced sexual size dimorphism in absolute body size or in relative head size. We studied the food habits of free-ranging forest cobras (Naja melanoleuca) in southern Nigeria to find whether any intersexual dietary divergence is present in this species, and measured both museum vouchers and freeranging specimens to find whether any intersexual divergence in relative head size is present. We demonstrated that: (1) head sizes increases more rapidly with SVL in females than in males, with a result that, at the same body length, the females tended to have significantly larger heads; (2) males and females were nearly identical in dietary habits, both if we consider prey size or prey type; (3) both sexes tended to prey upon relatively little sized preys. It is concluded that traditional evolutionary scenarios for explaining sexual dimorphism and food niche divergence are hardly valid in this case, and we need to look for entirely different hypotheses (e.g. linked to the sexual preference of males for females with larger heads).

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Contributions to Zoology

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Naturalis journals & series

Luiselli, L., Akani, G. C., Corti, C., & Angelici, F. M. (2002). Is sexual size dimorphism in relative head size correlated with intersexual dietary divergence in West African forest cobras, Naja melanoleuca?. Contributions to Zoology, 71(4), 141–145.