Date of Graduation

Summer 2008


Master of Science in Biology



Committee Chair

Brian Greene


Chemosensory, neonate, conspecific, temperature, searching

Subject Categories



The effects of ecologically-relevant temperature variation on SICS in the cottonmouth was tested using feeding trials at 14-16°;C, 20-22°;C, and 28-30°;C. At warmer temperatures cottonmouths relocated struck prey sooner, swallowed prey sooner, and tended to release prey more often than snakes at lower body temperatures. These data are consistent with the view that there are optimal body temperatures to maximize foraging success in cottonmouths. Additionally, I tested the hypothesis that neonatal cottonmouths use conspecific scent trails to locate hibernacula using Y-maze experiments. Neonatal cottonmouths showed no preference for the odors of their mothers, conspecifics, or heterospecifics when paired with a control. This result suggests that neonatal cottonmouths at our study site rely on factors other than conspecific scent trailing to locate suitable hibernacula. Finally, I performed laboratory experiments over the course of five days to determine whether neonatal cottonmouths would habituate to human handling. Cottonmouths exhibited no significant habituation for total behavior scores, but did exhibit a significant decrease in tail vibration over the five-day period.


© Gene T. Benbow

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