Date

2018

Major

Biology (B.S.B.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (restricted to Georgia Southern)

Faculty Mentor

Christian L. Cox

Abstract

In order to understand the evolution of prey species’ life history traits, it is necessary to examine the selective force that predation applies to those life history traits. Using rough earth snakes (H. striatula) as a model species, we determined the effects that differences in sex, color morph, and body size had on the likelihood that a snake would experience predation. We examined preserved specimens provided by the Georgia Southern University herpetology collection for evidence of predation and performed field study using clay models of H. striatula to build on our findings. We found that of the traits we examined, only size had any effect on likelihood of predation, with both evidence of predation displayed by the specimens and attacks on the models increasing with body size. These results suggest that selection for smaller body size due to predation might serve to counter the selection for larger body size due to increased reproductive success, resulting in the average body size these snakes have evolved. We also believe that our results, in combination with the relative energy consumption and body size distribution of mammalian and avian predators, might be evidence of a larger trend of a size category that experiences increased predation across small, terrestrial taxa.

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