Date of Award
Health, Physical Education, and Recreation
In many gartersnake species, successful mating depends on the ability of males to follow pheromone trails left by females. The populations we investigated (Thamnophis sirtalis and Thamnophis elegans, closely related sympatric species) overwinter together and simultaneously emerge. Although, mating occurs concurrently, there is no evidence of hybridization. Therefore, we sought to investigate the mechanisms that allow male snakes to differentiate between heterospecific and conspecific females to ensure mating success. Behavior studies were conducted by presenting male snakes with extracted scents of conspecific females, heterospecific females, and conspecific males. We measured male preference by number of investigatory tongue flicks and time and percentage of time spent at each scent. Our results support the hypothesis that male snakes prefer the scent of conspecific females, as opposed to heterospecific females. Furthermore, these results suggest that the use of species-specific pheromones is important in distinguishing between closely related species.
Watson, Eleanor, "The Role of Trailing Behavior in Conspecific Mating in Thamnophis elegans and Thamnophis sirtalis" (2018). Undergraduate Honors Capstone Projects. 462.
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