Date of Award
M.S. in Biological Science
William J. Resetarits
University of Mississippi
Organisms must navigate complex landscapes selecting suitable habitats that will minimize costs to themselves or their offspring and maximize fitness. Habitat characteristics influence a patch’s quality and organisms may prioritize certain characteristics when selecting among patches. Canopy cover and patch size are two important habitat characteristics that organisms use to evaluate a patch’s quality. To understand whether canopy cover or patch size are a better determinant of patch quality for southern gray treefrogs, Hyla chrysoscelis and aquatic insects I implemented a compromise design that provided two suboptimal patch types (large, closed canopy and small, open canopy patches) for colonization. A total of 158,980 H. chrysoscelis eggs were collected during the experiment with the majority laid in large, closed canopy patches. The preference of H. chrysoscelis for large, closed canopy patches suggests that patch size is prioritized over canopy cover when selecting higher quality patches. Aquatic insects showed mixed responses, but most species preferred large, closed canopy patches with only one species Bidessonotus inconspicuus preferring small, open canopy patches. These results demonstrate that individual species preferences for one patch type over another drive differences in aquatic community assemblages. These studies show the complexity of habitat selection in colonizing aquatic organisms and how individual species prioritize certain habitat characteristics over others to select patches with the highest quality. Results from studies like this can help create more nuanced and balanced approaches for restoring and conserving vital aquatic habitats. The simplistic approach of “build it and they will come” may not be entirely true or it may lead to the creation of low-quality patches that cannot support the large diversity of aquatic organisms.
Bowman, Ruric, "Habitat Characteristics That Drive Habitat Selection in Hyla Chrysoscelis (Southern Gray Treefrog) and Aquatic Insects" (2023). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 2485.