Redesigning the quantification of reptile behavior in Y-mazes

January 3 – Febuary 28, 2021

Meeting Abstract

P5-2  Sat Jan 2  Redesigning the quantification of reptile behavior in Y-mazes Nazarian, LA*; Bukovich, IMG; Parker, MR; James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA; James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA; James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA

The Y-maze is a powerful tool used for more than 50 years to understand reptile chemical ecology across a range of biological questions. For most Y-maze experiments, the primary method of cataloguing behaviors is first choice, which is when the reptile’s head passes some predetermined point in an arm of the Y. While first choice is a valuable piece of information, choice alone poorly informs behavioral studies; a myriad of environmental factors that impact the Y-maze trials go unquantified, yet if included in data analyses could yield a more accurate representation of behavior. We are applying the use of Y-mazes to assess the ability of Burmese pythons (Python bivittatus) to follow the scent trails of conspecifics in the Florida Everglades, and specific behaviors (i.e., head shakes, pauses, turns, head raises, tongue-flicking, time spent in each arm) of focal snakes will be examined through long-span video. Behaviors will be analyzed up until first choice then accounted for across the entire trial. We have developed a novel protocol for quantifying the amount of scent deposited by a scenting/stimulus snake as well scoring focal snake movement as it explores the maze. For initial phases involving the scent-laying snake, this “scent score” is used as a covariate; if there is a disproportionate amount of scent laid in the arm, trailing snake behavior should reflect this. Identifying new strategies for using covariates in behavioral analyses is critical for strengthening the validity of our interpretation of reptile behavior in future studies.

the Society for
Integrative &