Date of Award

Fall 2010

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Master of Science

First Advisor

Michelle Scott


The communication system of Plethodontid salamanders relies heavily upon chemical signaling. Pheromone molecules convey a tremendous amount of information to conspecifics, and facilitate a wide variety of the essential social functions of these animals. Much of the information contained within the pheromone mixture is variable from one individual to the next, such as the ability to recognize specific individuals, the size of the sender, and the relative "quality' of the signal. In order for variable information to be conveyed through chemical signals, the corresponding variability must be contained within the pheromone mixture itself. This variability may exist as a gradient of total volume, changes in the relative ratios of components, and even structural variability of the specific pheromone molecules. These aspects of pheromone variability will be explored in two Plethodontid salamanders (Plethodon cinereus and P. shermani) using biochemical methods and the phenomenon of female mate-choice as a behavioral measure.