Honors Senior Theses/Projects

Date of Award



Honors Program

Faculty Advisor

Michael P. LeMaster

Honors Program Director

Gavin Keulks


Pheromones play a central role in chemical communication. Previous research has examined pheromone production in many insect species, but little is known about pheromone production in vertebrates. Previous pheromone research has occurred using the red-sided garter snake, Thamnophis sirtalis parietalis, as a model system but it remains unclear where the female sexual attractiveness pheromone, the primary pheromone utilized by this species, is being produced. Snake skin epidermis cells have shown to be important in the production of skin lipids and regulating the permeability of the skin, and thus could play a central role in pheromone production and / or expression. This study measured the thickness of the top three epidermal layers in the skin of female red-sided garter snakes throughout the hibernation period. Of the three layers analyzed, the beta keratin layer was the only layer found to show a significant difference in thickness across the sampling periods. For this layer, I observed a decrease in thickness throughout hibernation, supporting a potential role for this layer in pheromone expression in the epidermis for this species.

GeranioMolly_2016_PPT.pptx (10429 kB)
Powerpoint presentation