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    P2: Herpetology: Behavior I

    2021-07-27   16:00 - 18:00

    To view the posters go to You will be able to chat one-on-one during the Tuesday poster session, the e-poster platform.

    1.  16:00  Exploratory, Bold, and Aggressive Behavior in Eastern Red-backed Salamanders (Plethodon cinereus): Evidence for a Behavioral Syndrome? Kelsey Garner*, John Carroll University; Jessica Ryan, John Carroll University; Cari-Ann M. Hickerson, John Carroll University; Carl Anthony, John Carroll University

    A behavioral syndrome is a suite of correlated behaviors that are consistent and repeatable across contexts. Behavioral correlations among unrelated behaviors can influence the evolution of behavioral traits such that selective forces on a behavior in one context may lead to suboptimal expression in other contexts. Such trade-offs constrain the evolution of traits and may result in shifts in fitness both within and between species. We performed multiple measures of aggressive, bold, and exploratory traits in two genetic groups of Plethodon cinereus. We predicted that traits exhibited by individuals would show consistency across trials (i.e., that they would be repeatable). Additionally, we predicted that aggressive behavior would correlate positively with exploratory and bold behaviors. Salamanders were exposed to standard resident/intruder territorial trials to assess their aggressive behavior. We then conducted a refuge emergence assay to determine boldness (latency to emerge from a refuge) and exploratory tendency (time spent outside of the refuge). We found most behaviors to be repeatable across trials, but the degree of repeatability depended on sex and on genetic group membership. As predicted, we found a positive relationship between exploratory and aggressive behavior, but the strength of the relationship was sex-dependent with female salamanders showing a stronger positive relationship. Contrary to our prediction, bold behavior was negatively correlated with aggressive behavior, and this relationship held in one, but not the other genetic group. Our results suggest that red-backed salamanders exhibit behavioral syndromes, but the consistency of these traits differ by sex and by genetic group.

    2.  16:00  Night or Day: Diel Effects on Antipredator Behavior of a Terrestrial Salamander. Sarah White, Missouri State University; Jami Baker, Missouri State University; Alicia Mathis*, Missouri State University

    Most species have daily activity periods that are predictable. Do prey individuals respond differently to predators that are typically diurnal or nocturnal based on the time of day? We measured antipredator responses of the primarily nocturnal Ozark Zigzag Salamander (Plethodon angusticlavius) exposed to chemical cues of two different snake predators, nocturnal Ringneck Snakes (Diadophis punctuatus) and diurnal garter snakes (Thamnophis sirtalis), and a blank water control during the day (1200 hours) and at night (1800 hours). At night, salamanders performed escape behavior (flight/increased activity) to cues from both predators, with the strongest flight response to cues from the nocturnal snake. Salamanders also differentiated between snakes during daytime trials, but the nature of the response was different—flight to cues from the nocturnal snake cues but with freezing/decreased activity to cues from the diurnal snake. Freezing may be a better strategy for surviving in the presence of visual predators during the daytime when snake sprint speeds are higher due to warmer temperatures. Responses of Ozark zigzag salamanders to snake cues are remarkably nuanced.

    3.  16:00  Colorful turtles lack a preference for carotenoid-based food that maintains stripe and spot color. John Steffen*, Shepherd University; Logan Rothstein, Shepherd University; Dominick Webster, Shepherd University

    For animals with carotenoid-based skin or feather color, plant matter can be an important food item because plants contain carotenoids which help maintain that color. Because skin or feather color impacts a species ability to advertise its identity and potentially act as a sexually-selected signal, animals should evolve preferences for eating plants. Adult painted turtles eat a wide variety of aquatic plants and animals, and here we examine whether adult painted turtles (Chrysemys picta) prefer some common native aquatic plants (arrowhead, cat-tails, water lilies, and waterweeds) over a common aquatic fish (juvenile bluegill sunfish). We presented juvenile and adult turtles 3.5 cm2 pieces of the aquatic plants and bluegill, observed which items were bitten and eaten, and calculated selectivity and preference for each plant and bluegill fish. We found that juvenile and adult turtles show a strong selectivity and preference for bluegill sunfish. Bluegill may be selected for and preferred by painted turtles because fish is a high calory diet item, rich in proteins and fats, which facilitates the absorption and delivery of carotenoids to the skin.

    5.  16:00  Redesigning the Quantification of Reptile Behavior in Y-mazes. Lauren A. Nazarian*, James Madison University; Isabella M.G. Bukovich, James Madison University; Eric A. Tillman, U.S. Department of Agriculture - National Wildlife Research Center - Florida Field Station; Bryan M. Kluever, U.S. Department of Agriculture - National Wildlife Research Center - Florida Field Station; Andrea F. Currylow, U.S. Geological Survey, Fort Collins Science Center - South Florida Field Station; Amy A. Yackel Adams, U.S. Geological Survey, Fort Collins Science Center

    The Y-maze is a powerful tool used for more than 50 years to understand reptile chemical ecology across a range of biological questions. For most Y-maze experiments, the primary method of cataloguing behaviors is first choice, which is when the reptile’s head passes some predetermined point in an arm of the Y. While first choice is a valuable piece of information, choice alone poorly informs behavioral studies; a myriad of environmental factors that impact the Y-maze trials go unquantified, yet if included in data analyses could yield a more accurate representation of behavior. We are applying the use of Y-mazes to assess the ability of wild-caught Burmese pythons (Python bivittatus) to follow the scent trails of conspecifics in Florida’s Greater Everglades Ecosystem. We examined specific behaviors of head shakes, pauses, turns, head raises, tongue-flicking, and time spent in each arm of focal snakes through long-span video. Behaviors will be analyzed up until first choice then accounted for across the entire trial. We have developed a novel protocol for quantifying the amount of scent deposited by a scenting/stimulus snake as well as scoring focal snake movement as it explores the maze. For initial phases involving the scent-laying snake, this "scent score" is used as a covariate; if there is a disproportionate amount of scent laid in the arm, trailing snake behavior should reflect this. Identifying new strategies for using covariates in behavioral analyses is critical for strengthening the validity of our interpretation of reptile behavior in future studies.

    6.  16:00  Quantification of Post-Strike Chemosensory Behaviors in Timber Rattlesnakes in the Field. Allison M. Newhart, James Madison University; April E. Hale, James Madison University; Steven J. Beaupre, University of Arkansas; M. Rockwell Parker*, James Madison University

    Rattlesnakes are a unique group of reptiles for studying chemosensory behaviors because they break physical contact with their prey following the envenomating strike to reduce potentially lethal retaliation. To facilitate relocation of the released prey, rattlesnakes employ strike-induced chemosensory searching (SICS). SICS is a fixed pattern of predictable behaviors widely distributed across squamate reptiles (snakes, lizards) and most elaborate in rattlesnakes. Each phase of SICS (quiescence, searching, trailing, relocation) has defining characteristics, but in the field, these phases have not been thoroughly quantified. Because tongue-flicks indicate vomeronasal chemosensing and breathing may indicate olfaction, we sought to distinguish these during SICS in field-based experiments. We recorded videos (n=16) of supplemental feeding trials in 2001 with telemetered adult Timber Rattlesnakes (Crotalus horridus; n=7) in a long-term, wild study population in the Ozark Mountains of Northwest Arkansas. The videos were recorded in 2001 and analyzed in 2021 to quantify behaviors in each phase of SICS. We determined fluctuations in behavioral progression during SICS by recording behaviors (e.g., pauses, head turns) and rates of chemosensation (e.g, tongue-flick rates, breathing rates). We hypothesized that tongue-flick and breathing rates would increase as the phases of SICS were completed. Two observers (AMN, AEH) recorded data and analyzed the composite results, and both tongue-flick and breathing rates increased across SICS but we saw few other behaviors. Our results contradict the patterns previously reported in laboratory studies of SICS in rattlesnakes, and we offer explanations as to why.

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