Date of Graduation

Fall 2014


Master of Science in Biology



Committee Chair

Alicia Mathis


I investigated whether rainbow darters (Etheostoma caeruleum) could learn to associate cues from an unfamiliar predator with a known fright stimulus (darter alarm cues) through the process of classical conditioning. Darters in the experimental group (n=32) were trained using their alarm cues paired with cues from larval ringed salamanders (unfamiliar predator: conditioned stimulus). Darters in the control group (n=32) were trained with a blank cue (water) paired with larval ringed salamander cues. The experimental group and control group were tested two days later by exposing them to larval ringed salamander cues alone. To test the specificity of the responses, both groups were also exposed to cues from black rat snakes (unfamiliar stimulus). The experimental group significantly decreased their number of moves (a fright response) compared to the control group when they were exposed to both the conditioned cue (salamander) and novel cue (snakes), which indicated that the conditioning resulted in increased sensitization to new stimuli. However, when the darters were retested after an additional 32 days, the fright response occurred only following exposure to the conditioned stimuli, indicating that specific learning of the salamander cue had occurred.


rainbow darter, alarm cues, classical conditioning, learning, predation

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© Wafa Hassan Abudayah

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