Title

Species, Season, and Sex - Effects on Hematological Characteristics in a Snake Community

Poster Number

16B

Lead Author Major

Pre-Dentistry

Lead Author Status

Sophomore

Second Author Major

Pre-Dentistry

Second Author Status

Sophomore

Format

Poster Presentation

Faculty Mentor Name

Zachary Stahlschmidt

Faculty Mentor Email

zstahlschmidt@pacific.edu

Faculty Mentor Department

Biological Sciences

Abstract/Artist Statement

Animals exhibit variation in a diverse array of fitness-related traits due to different environmental and genetic factors. In this experiment, we focused on three widespread factors (species, season, and sex) and observed their effects on parasite load (number of red blood cells infected by Hepatozoon parasites), stress level (ratio of two types of white blood cells: heterophils to lymphocytes [H : L ratio], which predicts levels of glucocorticoid stress hormones across vertebrates), and investment into cellular immunity (number of white blood cells) in a community of colubrid snakes. Over breeding and non-breeding seasons (March and September, respectively), five species of colubrids (Coluber constrictor, Pantherophis guttatus, Thamnophis sirtalis, Nerodia fasciata, and Pantherophis obsoletus) from Spring Island, South Carolina were captured, bled, measured for body mass and body size (snout-vent length), and determined for sex. Blood smears were analyzed for endoparasites (Hepatozoa), and the number and types of leukocytes (white blood cells, such as heterophils and lymphocytes). Although currently limited by a relatively small sample size (n = 22 snakes), we detected an effect of species on parasite burden: the banded water snake (Nerodia fasciata) had more Hepatazoa than any other species. As more samples are analyzed in this ongoing experiment, we will also incorporate two other linked physiological traits – hydration state (osmolality of blood plasma) and immune function (e.g., ability for blood plasma to kill bacteria) – into our data set. Thus, final results from our study aim to improve our understanding of (1) why important, fitness-related traits vary among individuals and (2) how interactions between traits (e.g., tradeoffs) may shift due to the widespread factors of species, season, and sex.

Location

DeRosa University Center, Ballroom

Start Date

28-4-2018 10:00 AM

End Date

28-4-2018 12:00 PM

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Apr 28th, 10:00 AM Apr 28th, 12:00 PM

Species, Season, and Sex - Effects on Hematological Characteristics in a Snake Community

DeRosa University Center, Ballroom

Animals exhibit variation in a diverse array of fitness-related traits due to different environmental and genetic factors. In this experiment, we focused on three widespread factors (species, season, and sex) and observed their effects on parasite load (number of red blood cells infected by Hepatozoon parasites), stress level (ratio of two types of white blood cells: heterophils to lymphocytes [H : L ratio], which predicts levels of glucocorticoid stress hormones across vertebrates), and investment into cellular immunity (number of white blood cells) in a community of colubrid snakes. Over breeding and non-breeding seasons (March and September, respectively), five species of colubrids (Coluber constrictor, Pantherophis guttatus, Thamnophis sirtalis, Nerodia fasciata, and Pantherophis obsoletus) from Spring Island, South Carolina were captured, bled, measured for body mass and body size (snout-vent length), and determined for sex. Blood smears were analyzed for endoparasites (Hepatozoa), and the number and types of leukocytes (white blood cells, such as heterophils and lymphocytes). Although currently limited by a relatively small sample size (n = 22 snakes), we detected an effect of species on parasite burden: the banded water snake (Nerodia fasciata) had more Hepatazoa than any other species. As more samples are analyzed in this ongoing experiment, we will also incorporate two other linked physiological traits – hydration state (osmolality of blood plasma) and immune function (e.g., ability for blood plasma to kill bacteria) – into our data set. Thus, final results from our study aim to improve our understanding of (1) why important, fitness-related traits vary among individuals and (2) how interactions between traits (e.g., tradeoffs) may shift due to the widespread factors of species, season, and sex.