Date of Graduation

Spring 2013


Master of Science in Biology



Committee Chair

Alicia Mathis


Chemical communication is the primary mode of information transfer among woodland salamanders of the genus Plethodon. These cues have been shown to convey a wide variety of information, and are used to establish territorial boundaries. Responses to chemical cues can include changes in both behavior and energy consumption. The ability of Ozark zigzag salamanders, Plethodon angusticlavius, to detect the sex of a conspecific through chemical substrate markings has not been assessed. In addition, some populations of P. angusticlavius are naturally infected with the ectoparasitic mite Hannemania eltoni. Parasitism can impact both the behavior and metabolism of the host as well as the behavior of others towards the parasitized individual. I examined whether sex and parasitism of the cue donor and receiver influenced behavioral and metabolic responses in P. angusticlavius. In laboratory trials, behavior of P. angusticlavius was influenced by the sex and parasite load of the cue donors and receivers. Behavioral responses were also influenced by whether the receiver was in its own territory or in the territory of the cue donor. Metabolic responses were not affected by the sex or parasite load of the cue donor, but males had higher metabolic rates than females, even after adjusting for differences in body size. Overall, my study indicates that both sex and parasitism can be detected via chemical cues in this species, and the nature of the response depends on residency status, sex, and parasite load of the receiver.


chemical communication, pheromone, parasite, behavior, metabolism, oxygen consumption, salamander, Plethodon

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© Benjamin David Dalton

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