Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Jarrett Johnson (Director), Michael Collyer, Albert Meier

Degree Program

Department of Biology

Degree Type

Master of Science


Numerous causes have been implicated in contributing to amphibian population declines since the 1980's, with habitat modification, ultraviolet radiation (UV-B) and environmental contaminants (such as glyphosate-based herbicide) being among the most common. This study identifies the effects of a generic glyphosate-based herbicide (GLY- 4 Plus) on mortality, immune function, body condition, and morphological plasticity of larvae of the spotted salamander (Ambystoma maculatum) under conditions that reflect open and closed canopy light regimes. Larval salamander responses to glyphosate-based herbicide varied depending on UV-B conditions. In general, it appears that an open canopy (i.e. greater UV-B exposure) may confer fitness benefits. In the presence of herbicide, survival was higher in an open canopy UV-B regime and pooled open canopy survival was higher than that of closed canopy treatments. In the absence of herbicide, body condition and immune function were positively related with amount of UV-B. Finally, herbicide presence appeared to affect morphology under low UV-B conditions. UV-induced breakdown of surfactant or a complex interaction between temperature stratification and trophic relations is potentially responsible for the observed patterns in survival and body condition. However, the mechanistic underpinnings of improved immune function and morphological differences are less clear. As deforestation is likely to continue, amphibians may find themselves in ponds with increasingly open canopies. Combined with the knowledge that some amphibians can become locally adapted to UV exposure and develop pesticide tolerance, the probability of surviving exposure to this herbicide may be elevated in open canopy ponds. These results emphasize the complexity of natural systems and the importance of including multiple factors in experiments.


Biodiversity | Biology | Terrestrial and Aquatic Ecology | Zoology