Date of Graduation

Summer 2018


Master of Science in Biology



Committee Chair

Alicia Mathis


Plethodon serratus, Plethodon angusticlavius, territoriality, sex differences, species differences, exploration, aggression, submission, caution, behavior

Subject Categories

Behavior and Ethology


Territorial disputes are common among terrestrial woodland salamanders (genus Plethodon). Males and females of both Ozark zigzag (P. angusticlavius) and southern red-backed (P. serratus) salamanders are territorial, but differing costs and benefits between sexes may influence the expression of territorial behavior. I compared the competitive and exploratory behavior of males and females of both species in laboratory experiments. Competitive behavior was assessed through staged contests between same-sex, same-sized conspecifics. There were no differences between males and females for territory owners (residents). Female intruders were more aggressive than male intruders, spending more time in and performing higher grades of the All Trunk Raised display (an aggressive posture). Females were also significantly more cautious than males about leaving territories during the exploration trials. Overall, P. angusticlavius showed more aggressive, submissive, and exploratory behavior, and were less cautious about leaving territories than P. serratus. The differences between males and females likely reflect a difference in the costs and benefits of territory ownership for males and females. Females fight harder to gain and hold territories, and are less willing to leave, which may indicate that the cost of not having a territory is greater for females.


© Colton Savage Lynn

Open Access