My master’s research will involve aquatic predator-prey interactions. Specifically, I will be investigating antipredator responses in larval salamanders.
The ability of aquatic organisms to recognize predation risk based on chemical cues has resulted in a plethora of different phenotypically-plastic antipredator responses, varying widely according to different assemblages of prey and predator. Larval amphibians have long served as model organisms for exploring predator-prey interactions, due to their aquatic ecology and consistent antipredator responses. In frog tadpoles, morphological and life history responses to perceived predation risk (PPR) have been studied thoroughly, and there is a general consensus on both the magnitudes and directions of these responses.
Responses to PPR in salamander larva, on the other hand, are not as well studied, and responses that have been demonstrated vary in both direction and magnitude. Given the differences in ecologies between frog tadpoles and salamander larvae, it is expected that they will respond to predation in different ways. Thus, my research will explore the morphological and life history responses to PPR in larval salamanders. Specifically, I will be looking at how the head, body, and tail morphology, and skin colour pigmentation change in response to PPR, as well as growth and developmental rates.
Furthermore, I plan to look at the interactive effects of food stress and PPR on these responses, with the idea being that starvation may inhibit an organism’s ability to adequately mount these antipredator defenses.