Megan Gibbons Research Interests




Kin recognition

Heritability of foraging






Anti-predator behavior

Egg masses

Salamander brooding







Costa Rica treefrogs

Green treefrogs in AL









Spotted salamanders

Stream salamanders


Parent-offspring Interactions in Red-backed Salamanders

My principle research interests are in vertebrate ecology and behavior, namely the ecological influences on and the evolution and heritability of behaviors in amphibians.  My previous research has involved the use of laboratory and field research (experimentation and observation) to examine behavior of the territorial, and entirely terrestrial red-backed salamander, Plethodon cinereus.  I have conducted studies on several aspects of their behavior, including social interactions, kin recognition between mothers and offspring, and heritability of foraging behavior.  Select the buttons to the left to find out more about my research with Plethodon cinereus.

Anti-predator Studies with Pond-breeding Amphibians

Much of my research involves investigating the evolution of behavior in pond-breeding amphibians, especially  how predator presence shapes the development of anti-predator behavior.   Undergraduates in my laboratory have worked on several projects that have compared the behaviors of amphibians from ponds with and without fish predators.  Students and I have also investigated the evolutionary advantages of clear versus opaque egg masses deposited by adult spotted salamander, and egg brooding behavior in the marbled salamander.  Select the buttons to the left to find out more about my research with pond breeding salamanders and frogs.

The Influences of Heritability and Plasticity on Developmental and Behavioral Traits in Amphibians

Some of my most recent research has focused on how heritable factors interact with environmental factors to create unique fitness consequences. Recent research by a BSC undergraduate investigated how heritable factors and diet affected developmental traits in the green treefrog, Hyla cinerea. I have recently started to conduct research in Costa Rica on the red-eyed treefrog (Agalychnis callidryas). This species lays its eggs on leaves that overhang ponds, which leaves them vulnerable to predation by arboreal and aerial predators.  Typically, eggs hatch spontaneously after 6-7 days, and larvae drop into the pond below.  Interestingly, eggs may hatch up to 48 hours earlier if attacked by snakes, wasps, or fungus; this early hatching allows embryos to escape predation, but places them at a higher risk of predation as tadpoles, due to their smaller size and less-developed locomotion.  My research focuses on how heritable factors and hatch time interact to influence the fitness of tadpoles and metamorphs of A. callidryas.   Student opportunities to conduct research in Costa Rica or locally are possible. Select the buttons on the left to see more information and some of the results from this research.

Monitoring Projects

Some of my research with undergraduates has also dealt with monitoring populations of salamanders that are in habitats at risk of degradation, particularly by nearby development.  These projects have taken place at the Homewood Nature Area, a small area of land with an amazing variety of plants and animals, especially amphibians.  This site is under constant pressure for development, and these projects are meant to document and preserve the diversity of the area.  Select the buttons to the left to find out more about the monitoring projects in Homewood, Alabama.