Jennifer Hunter, Aposematic signaling in mammalian carnivores

Aposematism, or the use of conspicuous contrasting coloration which warns potential predators that the bearer possesses some noxious quality, has been greatly understudied in mammals. I propose to examine aposematic signaling in mammalian carnivores with respect to the ecological and morphological factors which enhance detection, potential defensive strategies and the ultimate mortality consequences of these signals. To evaluate these parameters I plan to use a series of field experiments involving the alternate presentation of taxidermy mounts of striped skunks (Mephitis mephitis) and grey foxes (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) at baited camera stations. I will use motion-sensitive digital cameras with infra-red illumination to record frequency and proximity of heterospecific and conspecific visits to these mounts.

This a novel methodology and in order to evaluate its efficacy I propose to conduct a pilot study at Quail Ridge Reserve to strengthen my experimental design. I will alternate between bait types and quantities as well as the presence or absence of a striped skunk mount to evaluate the impact of these factors on carnivore visitation. The camera station will be re-baited daily and moved every 3 days to maximize the independence of carnivore visits and to include a broad range of habitat characteristics. The data collected in this pilot study will help me to refine the full experimental design.

Mountain Lion Video: Sniffing around.
Webcast: Real Player, Quicktime, Windows Media, 1:07 Minutes, March 12, 2007

Mountain Lion Video: This must be catnip.
Webcast: Real Player, Quicktime, Windows Media, 1:05 Minutes, March 12,2007

Mountain Lion Video: One big cat.
Webcast: Real Player, Quicktime, Windows Media, 1:05 Minutes, March 12,2007

Mountain Lion Video: Sacrifice for science.
Webcast: Real Player, Quicktime, Windows Media, 1:04 Minutes, March 13,2007


Photo Credits: Title, Research (Mike Benard)

This page last updated: March 14, 2007  

Contact: Dr. Virginia Boucher
John Muir Institute of the Environment
109 The Barn, University of California, Davis, CA 95616
Phone: 530-752-6949; email:

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