Date of Graduation

Fall 2009


Master of Science in Biology



Committee Chair

Don Moll


Sternotherus odoratus, Macroclemys temminckii, Rathke's glands, chemosensory, conspecific communication

Subject Categories



All marine and most freshwater turtle species possess Rathke's glands. These glands exhibit similar morphological and histochemical properties across many species and release small amounts of odorous secretion. The function of this secretion is unknown, however several hypotheses exist. This study was designed to investigate the role of Rathke's secretions of Sternotherus odoratus as a conspecific alarm cue and as a chemical cue used in courtship. Turtles were collected and randomly assigned to one of four treatments, including a control treatment (n=10), a predatory treatment (n=10), and two conspecific treatments. One conspecific treatment utilized stimuli from turtles with sealed Rathke's glands (n=18), while the other treatment utilized stimuli from turtles with functional Rathke's glands (n=17). There was a significant difference among treatments in latency to feed and in time spent feeding. Turtles receiving stimuli from a predator, Macroclemys temminckii, spent significantly less time feeding than turtles that received stimulus from a conspecific with sealed Rathke's glands. No significant interactions were found between conspecific treatment and gender. The results of this study lend support to the hypothesis that Rathke's gland secretions from S. odoratus function as a conspecific alarm cue.


© Holly Jeane Monroe

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