Honors Senior Theses/Projects

Date of Award

6-1-2011

Department

Honors Program

Faculty Advisor

Michael LeMaster

Honors Program Director

Gavin Keulks

Abstract

Pheromones are chemical cues used to communicate between individuals within a single species. Previous work with reproductive pheromones in lower vertebrates has focused on the red -sided garter snake, Thamnophis sirtalis parietalis. Studies have shown that this species has a female attractiveness pheromone that elicits courtship behavior in males. Chemical analysis of this pheromone suggests that the composition of the female attractiveness pheromone varies among garter snake species. This study conducted trailing experiments to investigate whether methyl ketones contained in the skin lipids of red -spotted garter snakes, Thamnophis sirtalis concinnus, are responsible for eliciting male trailing behavior ; hypothesizing that these cues, as observed with the red -sided garter snake, serve as the sexual attractiveness pheromone for this species. Males snake were tested on a y-maze with four different treatments: 1) a blank maze, 2) trails laid down by male red -spotted garter snakes, 3) trails laid down by female red -spotted garter snakes, and 4) trails composed of methyl ketone extracts from female red -spotted garter snakes. Males were found to actively trail both female trails and methyl ketone extract trials, supporting the role of methyl ketones as the sexual attractiveness pheromone for this species.

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Biology Commons

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