Date of Graduation

Summer 2022


Master of Science in Biology



Committee Chair

Alicia Mathis


Producing and carrying eggs is energetically costly and therefore can affect behavior. Female Southern Red-backed Salamanders (Plethodon serratus) in the Ozarks reproduce biennially, and so during the reproductive season some females are gravid and some are non-gravid. In this study, we compared the exploratory and aggressive behaviors of gravid females, non-gravid females, and males, as well as the escape velocities of each sex class. In exploratory trials, sex did not affect distance travelled, but gravid females and males showed shorter latencies to move than non-gravid females during the winter. During the aggression trials, individuals were subjected to a stress treatment (simulated attack) or a control (no attack) and allowed to recover for 5 min. Individuals were then placed into chambers containing chemical secretions from another salamander, and agonistic and movement data were recorded. For all behaviors, salamanders in all three groups decreased their activity when they were in the stress treatment. Gravid females showed a faster latency to move and higher levels of threat behavior than non-gravid females or males. Sex class did not significantly affect the escape velocities of the salamanders. Overall, gravid females moved sooner than non-gravid females and males and showed higher levels of aggressive behavior.


Plethodon serratus, gravid, behavior, exploration, aggression, sprint speed, sex differences, reproductive condition

Subject Categories

Behavior and Ethology


© Megan N. Mosier

Available for download on Saturday, August 05, 2023

Open Access