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One of the many gaps we have in our knowledge of salamanders is that of predation. Most studies suggest that salamanders are eaten mainly by birds and snakes, but there are still several unanswered questions: What other types of animals tend to prey on salamanders? Is there any difference in predator type during different times of the year? In order to answer these questions, I studied predation on one particular species of salamander, Plethodon cinereus (eastern red-backed salamander). Models of the two primary color morphs of P. cinereus (striped and unstriped) were created using impressionable clay to determine types and patterns of predation based on bite marks left in the clay. Models were deployed for two-week periods during multiple seasons (Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018) and checked daily for signs of predation. Results revealed a variety of potential predator marks, including those left by rodents, slugs, birds, and some of which were unidentifiable, or models went missing. Unfortunately, there were few bird markings, and the slug and rodent markings are likely to be curiosity-driven taste-testing and not reflective of actual predation on salamanders. Overall, there was a significantly higher rate of predation in Fall 2017 compared to that in Spring 2018 and Fall 2018, suggesting acclimation to model presence. There was also a marginally significant difference in type of predator markings found, rodent being dominant, but no significant difference between predation on striped versus unstriped, across all seasons. Although the technique of clay modeling has been shown to be a useful method for measuring predation on various small terrestrial species, and only recently for P. cinereus, my experience in this study was not as successful. More than one flaw was discovered in this system, and thus, the validity and possibility for improvement is also discussed, with plans for continuation of the study in Spring 2019.



Thesis Comittee

Dr. M. Caitlin Fisher-Reid, Thesis Advisor

Dr. Kenneth Adams, Committee Member

Dr. Kevin Curry, Committee Member

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Original document was submitted as an Honors Program requirement. Copyright is held by the author.

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