Date of Award

2022

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Biology

First Advisor

Dr. Carl Anthony

Abstract

Animal personality implies limited behavioral plasticity and behavioral traits which are correlated across contexts. Correlated behaviors, sometimes referred to as behavioral syndromes, have the potential to inhibit behavioral traits from evolving independently. Limits on behavioral variation can influence a population’s ability to invade new geographic areas and exploit new niches. One way to explore such variation is to examine behavioral syndromes in genetically distinct populations of wide-ranging species that exhibit different dispersal pathways and distances. The personality-dependent dispersal syndrome suggests that certain traits, such as exploratory and risk-taking behavior, are correlated with dispersal success. The Eastern Red-backed Salamander (Plethodon cinereus) is found throughout much of the eastern US and southeastern Canada. Genetic data on clade membership suggests that the Northern clade dispersed from North Carolina up the eastern seaboard and moved westward through southern Canada, south through Michigan, northwestern Ohio and northeastern Indiana. The Ohio clade was thought to migrate northward from the central Appalachians through Ohio to the southwest shore of Lake Erie. The unique and extensive distribution of the Northern clade suggests that behavioral traits may contribute to the dispersal success of these individuals. My results reveal differences in exploratory, neophilic, and bold behaviors between clades which may be best described by the proactive-reactive hypothesis. Contrary to my initial hypothesis, the Northern clade was less exploratory, neophilic, and bold than the Ohio clade. As such, the Northern clade may be better characterized as reactive and the Ohio clade as proactive. I posit that personality traits and syndromes which may affect dispersal were potentially influenced by ecological pressures including predation, density, competition, and environmental heterogeneity that were experienced by these individuals in the wild.

Available for download on Saturday, April 29, 2023

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