Thesis Title

Behavioral and Metabolic Responses of the Southern Red-Backed Salamander (Plethodon Serratus) to Predatory Stimuli: Influence of Body Size

Date of Graduation

Summer 2005


Master of Science in Biology



Committee Chair

Alicia Mathis


In nature, visual cues are limited for southern red-backed salamanders (Plethodon serratus), so chemoreception may be important for predator detection. I conducted experiments to examine the effect of chemical stimuli from predatory ringneck snakes on the foraging behavior and metabolic rates of P. serratus. Individuals were exposed to substrate cues from ringneck snakes, five-lined skinks (nonpredator), and dechlorinated water. In the foraging study, I also examined the response to airborne cues. Larger salamanders (SVL > 32 mm) foraged more than smaller salamanders, and salamanders showed reduced foraging in the presence of predatory substrate cues but not airborne cues. Metabolic rates for smaller salamanders showed greater increases in response to the snake exposure compared to larger individuals. In summary, salamanders reduce foraging in the presence of substrate predatory cues, which may reduce their chances of being detected. Lack of response to airborne cues may indicate that the chemical used in the detection of ringneck snakes is nonvolatile. The size-dependent metabolic responses may reflect a defense response versus a flee response. Large salamanders may be less inclined to flee because they are likely to be territory owners and loss of territories might have serious consequences. Large salamanders also may be less vulnerable to predation by gape-limited predators, like snakes.


antipredator behavior, chemoreception, metabolic rate, Plethodon serratus, red-backed salamander

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© Nathan L. Windel