Date of Award

2006

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science

Department

Biology

First Advisor

Dr. Michael R. Heithaus

Abstract

Predation risk influences a variety of behavioral decisions of many organisms and results in animals having to trade-offs safety with other behaviors. The effects of predation, however, have been largely ignored in the study of vertebrates that forage underwater (divers). I tested the predictions of an on optimal diving model that incorporates the risk of predation, using red eared slider turtles (Trachemys scripta elegans). Specifically, I tested the hypothesis that divers will increase their surface time when instantaneous risk decreases with time at the surface. By using a model aerial predator and exposing turtles to both risk and no risk treatments, I tested how turtles perceive risk at the surface and whether they increase or decrease their surface time depending on how they assess risk. The model's predictions for situations in which risk at the surface is decreasing with time spent there-likely to be the case for aerial predation-were supported by the results. I found that surface time and time spent submerged per dive were significantly greater when turtles were at risk and that turtles also spent more time resting at the bottom when exposed to this treatment. Interestingly, turtles under risk engaged in vigilance behaviors while on the bottom just prior to surfacing. This behavior could have implications for model predictions and future experiments are needed to test whether subsurface vigilance may alter diving decisions made under risk.

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