Megan Gibbons Research Interests:

Benefits of Brooding Behavior in Marbled Salamanders, Ambystoma opacum

Parental care is an important feature of many vertebrate species.  Although relatively few amphibians exhibit parental care, egg-brooding behavior is found in several species.  Females of the marbled salamander (Ambystoma opacum) lay their eggs under logs in shallow depressions of dry vernal pools and remain with them for weeks until they become inundated with water as the pool fills, an event that causes hatching of the eggs.  BSC undergraduate Fleming Holt conducted a study that investigated the potential benefits of egg-brooding behavior in this species.  She collected females with their eggs from Henry Farm Park in Jacksonville, AL, and exposed them to predaceous millipedes to see if females actively defended the eggs, or if eggs suffered higher predation if females were absent. Females did not engage in aggressive anti-predator behavior, and the amount of contact the millipede spent with the eggs was not affected by the salamander’s presence.  Further studies are required to investigate other potential benefits to brooding behavior in this species; a great system for undergraduate research starting in the Fall term.