Poster Title

Social Organization in a Population of Copperheads (Agkistrodon contortrix)

Grade Level at Time of Presentation

Junior

Major

Biology

Institution

Eastern Kentucky University

KY House District #

81

KY Senate District #

34

Department

Department of Biology

Abstract

Social Organization in a Population of Copperheads (Agkistrodon contortrix)

Austin Owens, Jesse C. Sockman, Josh J. Hendricks, Kyle Muennich, Stephen C. Richter

Abstract

In social species, intraspecific interactions lead to hierarchal organization. More competitive individuals are given dominant positions while the weaker or less fit members of the group are relegated to more submissive roles. This pattern is common in animals whose lives revolve around sociality, and can be readily observed in lion or wolf communities, for example. Population dynamics and behavior show trends in individual function within a group. The obligate social structures present in these animals, as well as many primate, cetacean, and avian species are well-studied, and are viewed as behavioral bridges between natural and human communities. Whether species that exhibit a more facultative sociality organize themselves in this way remains unknown. Many pit-vipers have shown a tendency for short-term sociality during the breeding season, when foraging in prey-dense areas, and when brumating in hibernacula. This limited sociality makes them ideal subjects for studying the stratification of roles in populations that alternate between gregarious and solitary lives. We investigated the demographic structure of a population of copperheads (Agkistrodon contortrix) in the Red River Gorge region of Kentucky. By using mark-recapture and physiological information, we created size classes for each sex and compared the rates of recapture in conjunction with environmental data and body condition. If copperheads have stratified roles when in high densities, then mark recapture should show stronger competitors visiting the foraging site more frequently and consistently.

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Social Organization in a Population of Copperheads (Agkistrodon contortrix)

Social Organization in a Population of Copperheads (Agkistrodon contortrix)

Austin Owens, Jesse C. Sockman, Josh J. Hendricks, Kyle Muennich, Stephen C. Richter

Abstract

In social species, intraspecific interactions lead to hierarchal organization. More competitive individuals are given dominant positions while the weaker or less fit members of the group are relegated to more submissive roles. This pattern is common in animals whose lives revolve around sociality, and can be readily observed in lion or wolf communities, for example. Population dynamics and behavior show trends in individual function within a group. The obligate social structures present in these animals, as well as many primate, cetacean, and avian species are well-studied, and are viewed as behavioral bridges between natural and human communities. Whether species that exhibit a more facultative sociality organize themselves in this way remains unknown. Many pit-vipers have shown a tendency for short-term sociality during the breeding season, when foraging in prey-dense areas, and when brumating in hibernacula. This limited sociality makes them ideal subjects for studying the stratification of roles in populations that alternate between gregarious and solitary lives. We investigated the demographic structure of a population of copperheads (Agkistrodon contortrix) in the Red River Gorge region of Kentucky. By using mark-recapture and physiological information, we created size classes for each sex and compared the rates of recapture in conjunction with environmental data and body condition. If copperheads have stratified roles when in high densities, then mark recapture should show stronger competitors visiting the foraging site more frequently and consistently.