Honors College Thesis


UVB Radiation Affects the Quality of the Female Sexual Attractiveness Pheromone of the Red-Sided Garter Snake Public Deposited

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  • In this study, pheromone and skin lipid samples collected from red-sided garter snakes (Thamnophis sirtalis parietalis) were exposed directly to either full-spectrum light or full-spectrum plus UVB light. In addition, female and male snakes were exposed to daily doses of either full-spectrum or full-spectrum and UVB light, after which the skin lipids were collected and analyzed. Behavioral studies were conducted on the snakes during exposure. After each experiment, the pheromone and other lipids were weighed and qualitatively and quantitatively analyzed by gas chromatography and mass spectrometry. The results show that UVB radiation reduces the unsaturated:saturated and the high-molecular weight:low-molecular weight methyl ketone ratios of the pheromone, which are correlated with the level of attractiveness of a female snake, in directly exposed samples. The unsaturated:saturated ratio was also decreased in live female snakes. No behavioral differences were observed, indicating that snakes do not attempt to shelter themselves from UVB light and appear to be unaware of UVB differences. These results suggest that an increase in UVB radiation, as has been occurring in the red-sided garter snakes' native range in Canada, could have an effect on the mating behavior of the snakes, leading to changes in the timing of critical life-history events such as breeding and dispersal for feeding.
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