Date of Completion

Spring 6-10-2009

Thesis Advisor(s)

Carl Schlichting

Honors Major

Environmental Science


Other Environmental Sciences


The ability to respond plastically to the environment has allowed amphibians to evolve adaptive responses to spatial and temporal variation in predation threat. However, animals exposed to predators may also show costs of plasticity or tradeoffs. This study examines predator-induced plasticity in larval development, behavior, and metamorphosis in the spotted salamander, Ambystoma maculatum. Salamanders were raised in two treatments: with predator cues (a fish predator, genus Lepomis, on the other side of a divided tank), or without predator cues. During the larval stage the predator treatment group experienced higher mortality rates than the no-predator treatment group. Behavioral trials revealed that predator treatment animals ate less than those not exposed, and that this feeding response was immediately inducible and had lasting effects. Animals in the predator treatment group had smaller tail areas during the mid-larval period. Feeding and body size effects may have contributed to increased mortality in the predator-treatment animals. The timing of metamorphic onset was not affected by the presence of predators, but predator-treatment salamanders had shorter snout/vent lengths at metamorphosis. The duration of metamorphosis showed a potentially adaptive plastic response to the presence of predator cues: metamorphosis was longest in the no-predator treatment group, reduced in the predator treatment group, and even further reduced for animals exposed to predator cues only during metamorphosis. Overall, we found a mix of potentially adaptive and costly plastic responses in spotted salamanders.