Megan Gibbons Research Interests:

Anti-predator Behavior

Predator-prey interactions have a strong impact on community organization because changes in community composition are directly related to the foraging characteristics of the predators and the anti-predator defense mechanisms employed by prey. Some of my research focuses on investigating differences in anti-predator behavior elicited by prey that are exposed to different types of predators.  For example, a study that I conducted with BSC undergraduates Allison Hargett and Katherine Long showed that spotted salamander larvae (Ambystoma maculatum) showed increased activity levels when exposed to crayfish predators, but no change in activity level when exposed to fish predators.  In addition, our results suggest that salamanders responded to chemical, rather than visual, cues in their detection of crayfish.  These results are particularly interesting because the pond from which we collected the salamander larvae contains crayfish, but no fish predators. 

 

 

This observation has inspired me to investigate further the relationship between anti-predator behaviors and the presence or absence of different predator types in the environment in which prey have evolved.  I have recently conducted studies with BSC undergraduates Chris Brennan and Nikki Rombough that demonstrate that while salamanders from ponds without fish do not seem to respond to fish cues, green treefrog tadpoles (Hyla cinerea) from ponds without fish maintained their anti-predator behavior.   Additional research that I conducted at Tyson Research Center at Washington University in St. Louis suggests that frogs and salamanders may respond differently to their potential predators because of their difference in dispersal abilities.  That is, there may be greater gene flow in frog populations than salamander populations.  Therefore, salamanders from fishless ponds may be under less pressure from fish predators than are frogs, who may more easily disperse between fish and fishless ponds.

 

Click here to access the the poster presented at the Association of Southeastern Biologists meeting, 2005

 

Study sites:

 

 Red Lake, Ruffner Mountain Nature Center          Henry Farm Park, Jacksonville, AL               Salamander Pond, Tyson Research Center,

                   Birmingham, AL                                                                                                                    Eureka, MO

        

 

 

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