Grade Level at Time of Presentation

Senior

Major

Biology

2nd Grade Level at Time of Presentation

Senior

Institution

University of Louisville

KY House District #

40

KY Senate District #

35

Department

Biology

Abstract

When animals are put into an unfamiliar place, they often exhibit signs of investigative behavior, and at least in vertebrate species such as mammals, the presence of a conspecific can alter behavior, often changing the routes followed, the amount of exploration, and even the directions taken. Patterns such as these can affect an individual’s survival, and thus might be expected to be present across a wide range of species. We used a little-studied species of land snail native to Kentucky (white-lipped globe snail, Cepaea hortensis) to investigate how snail size and the recent presence of a conspecific affect the movement pattern of a focal snail in a novel environment. We also tested whether presence of a familiar smell influenced movement on a 25 X 25 cm2 glass plate. Size, order, and familiarity all had clear effects on movement patterns. For example, small snails tended to delay longer before starting to move than did large snails. Also, small snails tested after a large snail typically took a more convoluted path to travel a given linear distance than did small snails following another small snail. For both large and small snails, the second snail did not exactly follow the path of the first, but did go in the same general direction more frequently than expected by chance. The presence of a familiar scent cue (e.g. a dish of soil from their home aquarium) also altered snail behavior, with snails taking more direct paths in the presence of the cue. These data demonstrate that snails can distinguish the size of a conspecific from its trail. When investigating a novel environment, the snails made surprisingly complex decisions about their route and pattern of movement. Conspecific cues play a vital role in movement decisions, and may help individuals find sites that increase survival.

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When animals are put into an unfamiliar place, they often exhibit signs of investigative behavior, and at least in vertebrate species such as mammals, the presence of a conspecific can alter behavior, often changing the routes followed, the amount of exploration, and even the directions taken. Patterns such as these can affect an individual’s survival, and thus might be expected to be present across a wide range of species. We used a little-studied species of land snail native to Kentucky (white-lipped globe snail, Cepaea hortensis) to investigate how snail size and the recent presence of a conspecific affect the movement pattern of a focal snail in a novel environment. We also tested whether presence of a familiar smell influenced movement on a 25 X 25 cm2 glass plate. Size, order, and familiarity all had clear effects on movement patterns. For example, small snails tended to delay longer before starting to move than did large snails. Also, small snails tested after a large snail typically took a more convoluted path to travel a given linear distance than did small snails following another small snail. For both large and small snails, the second snail did not exactly follow the path of the first, but did go in the same general direction more frequently than expected by chance. The presence of a familiar scent cue (e.g. a dish of soil from their home aquarium) also altered snail behavior, with snails taking more direct paths in the presence of the cue. These data demonstrate that snails can distinguish the size of a conspecific from its trail. When investigating a novel environment, the snails made surprisingly complex decisions about their route and pattern of movement. Conspecific cues play a vital role in movement decisions, and may help individuals find sites that increase survival.