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Effect of Urbanization on Predatory Defense Mechanisms of Southern Ringneck Snake (Diadophis punctatus punctatus) Populations in South Florida

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Date Issued:
2017-07-27
Abstract:
The effect of urbanization on native wildlife is mostly negative. For example, the creation of urban habitats results in the loss of wild habitats, which can increase fragmentation, limit species dispersal and reduce access to resources. However, in some circumstances, urbanization can have positive effects on native wildlife. For example, some opportunistic and generalized species are able to tolerate urbanization by taking advantage of novel niches with reduced competition. Diadophis punctatus punctatus (Southern Ringneck Snakes) are a small, cryptic species found throughout the southeastern United States that thrive in both urban and wild habitats, indicating the snake’s tolerance to urbanization. Urbanization may have expanded D. p. punctatus’ niche. These snakes may be able to take advantage of the climate and landscape, availability of novel prey, and/ or refuge from predators within urban habitats. In this study, I examined if D. p. punctatus used urban habitats as refuge from predators by comparing the frequency of predator bite marks on clay snake models placed in urban and wild habitats. The snake models resembled different aspects of D. p. punctatus’ morphology and behavior. I also analyzed the placement of predator bite marks on the snake models to determine the function (i.e., aposematic, parasematic, or deimatic signaling) of D. p. punctatus’ tail-coiling display. The rates of predator attacks on the snake models were similar between urban and wild habitats, indicating D. p. punctatus used urban habitats for reasons other than a refuge from predators. In addition, this study supports the claim that D. p. punctatus’ tail-coiling display was an anti-predatory mechanism. Predators avoided the tail on snake models with red coloration and coiled tails, suggesting D. p. punctatus’ tail-coiling display may be used as a deimatic signal. Results of this study appear to contradict previous findings about the tail-coiling display. However, it is likely that the use of D. p. punctatus’ anti-predatory signal depends on the context. These snakes seem to show multi-modal signaling and flexible defense mechanisms, which may be important characteristics of urbanophiles.
Title: Effect of Urbanization on Predatory Defense Mechanisms of Southern Ringneck Snake (Diadophis punctatus punctatus) Populations in South Florida.
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Name(s): Richards, Tesla, Author
College of Arts & Sciences, Degree granting institution
Type of Resource: text
Genre: Thesis
Issuance: single unit
Date Issued: 2017-07-27
Extent: 49 pgs.
Language(s): English
Abstract: The effect of urbanization on native wildlife is mostly negative. For example, the creation of urban habitats results in the loss of wild habitats, which can increase fragmentation, limit species dispersal and reduce access to resources. However, in some circumstances, urbanization can have positive effects on native wildlife. For example, some opportunistic and generalized species are able to tolerate urbanization by taking advantage of novel niches with reduced competition. Diadophis punctatus punctatus (Southern Ringneck Snakes) are a small, cryptic species found throughout the southeastern United States that thrive in both urban and wild habitats, indicating the snake’s tolerance to urbanization. Urbanization may have expanded D. p. punctatus’ niche. These snakes may be able to take advantage of the climate and landscape, availability of novel prey, and/ or refuge from predators within urban habitats. In this study, I examined if D. p. punctatus used urban habitats as refuge from predators by comparing the frequency of predator bite marks on clay snake models placed in urban and wild habitats. The snake models resembled different aspects of D. p. punctatus’ morphology and behavior. I also analyzed the placement of predator bite marks on the snake models to determine the function (i.e., aposematic, parasematic, or deimatic signaling) of D. p. punctatus’ tail-coiling display. The rates of predator attacks on the snake models were similar between urban and wild habitats, indicating D. p. punctatus used urban habitats for reasons other than a refuge from predators. In addition, this study supports the claim that D. p. punctatus’ tail-coiling display was an anti-predatory mechanism. Predators avoided the tail on snake models with red coloration and coiled tails, suggesting D. p. punctatus’ tail-coiling display may be used as a deimatic signal. Results of this study appear to contradict previous findings about the tail-coiling display. However, it is likely that the use of D. p. punctatus’ anti-predatory signal depends on the context. These snakes seem to show multi-modal signaling and flexible defense mechanisms, which may be important characteristics of urbanophiles.
Identifier: Richards_fgcu_1743_10263 (IID)
Degree Awarded: Master of Science
Department: Ecology & Environmental Studies
Committee Co-Chairs: Edwin Everham, Ph.D.; Charles Gunnels IV, Ph.D.
Committee Members: John Herman, Ph.D.; Serge Thomas, Ph.D.
Subject(s): Environment
Urban animals
Florida
Persistent Link to This Record: http://purl.flvc.org/fgcu/fd/Richards_fgcu_1743_10263
Use and Reproduction: Creator(s) holds copyright.
Use and Reproduction: http://rightsstatements.org/vocab/InC/1.0/
Host Institution: FGCU