Date of Completion
predator-prey interactions, local adaptation, chemical ecology, Ambystoma maculatum, plasticity, salamanders
Field of Study
Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Doctor of Philosophy
Community interactions often differ quite strikingly across natural landscapes. Environmental differences do not explain all of this spatial variation in community patterns — evolutionary dynamics might often play an important role. Interacting populations can evolve different responses to each other based on divergent natural selection regimes or past evolutionary histories, which in turn affect their ecological interactions. Aquatic spotted salamander larvae (Ambystoma maculatum) are preyed upon by many species, but, like many amphibians in aquatic environments, have evolved the ability to use chemical cues to detect predator presence. In this dissertation, I investigate the limits and specificity of this species’ ability to differentiate between predator chemical cues, and examine the broader picture of selective forces that may drive trait responses and ultimately affect survival in spotted salamanders. Each inquiry has a geographic component, dealing with salamander populations from three sites across New England. From south to north, these sites vary in predator composition, and in each study, I found idiosyncratic responses of salamander larvae at each location. With a better understanding of the ways in which antagonistic species interact, we can predict the outcomes of novel interactions more accurately, and will have insight into how predator-prey interactions could be altered by a changing world.
Rack, Jessica M., "Antipredator Adaptations of Spotted Salamander Larvae across a Geographic Gauntlet of Predation Risk" (2016). Doctoral Dissertations. 1086.