Response Of Salamanders To Chemical Stimuli From Predators In Natural Habitats


Caleb Hickman

Date of Graduation

Summer 2002


Master of Science in Biology



Committee Chair

Alicia Mathis


Prey often respond to predators by either fleeing or freezing (remaining immobile). Fleeing rapidly removes the prey from danger while freezing can help the prey escape detection. Very few studies have tested response of salamanders to chemical stimuli (Kairomones) from predators under natural conditions. I used field experiments to test: (1) responses of stream-dwelling neotenic graybelly salamanders, Eurycea multiplicata griseogaster, to chemical stimuli from predatory banded sculpin, Cottus carolinae, (2) responses of larval ringed salamanders, Ambystoma annulatum, to chemical stimuli from predatory newts, Notophthalmus viridescens, and (3) responses of terrestrial southern red-backed salamanders, Plethodon serratus, to chemical stimuli from predatory ringneck snakes, Diadophis punctatus. In all three experiments, responses to predator kairomones were compared to responses to chemical stimuli from non-predator controls and to a chemical blank. All three species of salamanders responded differently to chemical stimuli from predators and controls, but the nature of their responses were different. In contrast to non-predator controls, graybelly salamanders responded to kairomones from sculpin by fleeing, while both ringed and southern red-backed salamanders decreased activity following exposure to predatory kairomones. The different responses could be due to differences in clarity of the two habitats (clear streams versus visually obstructed forests and ponds) or foraging styles of the predators (cryptic ambush versus active).

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© Caleb Hickman