I had my very first ever scientific poster presentation on July 31st, 2020. Due to COVID-19, the number of guests was limited, everyone wore face masks, and everyone practiced social distancing. It was still really exciting to finally take that step into the scientific community and learn about what my fellow students had been researching all summer. Below is a picture of my poster! I really liked how it turned out and I hope you do too.
I am aware that the poster is kind of hard to read so I included the text below as well. I did not write out the methods section because it’s literally the exact same as the methods I wrote out in the other section and I am ~lazy~.
Animals tend to explore unfamiliar environments in order to increase their chances of survival. However, factors that influence animals’ tendency to explore are poorly understood. Some studies on vertebrates have suggested that the presence of food or conspecifics can affect exploration behavior, but little is known about how invertebrates explore their world.
We used a native terrestrial snail as a model to investigate the factors that influence behavior in a novel environment. The white-lipped globe snail (Mesodon thyroideus) is a Kentucky native species that is generally common across its range but has been poorly studied.
We tested the effects of snail size, the presence of food, and the previous presence of a conspecific on snail exploratory behavior. We predicted that each of these factors would affect snail movement behavior, such as directionality, path length, and their tendency to delay movement or stop moving while traveling.
Stalls. Both snail size (L, M, S) and snail order (1st or 2nd) had a significant effect on the number of stalls (size: p < 0.0001; order: p < 0.001), but the presence of food did not (p > 0.88).
Pauses. Food and snail size had an interactive effect on the number of pauses snails made (p < 0.001), but snail order had no effect. In the presence of food, large snails paused fewer times than expected.
Snail Trial Length. Food and snail size also had an interactive effect on trail length (p < 0.015). The presence of food did not affect trail length in small snails but did in large and medium-sized snails.
Snail order had a significant main effect on trial length (p < 0.007), with the first snail in a trial having a longer trail than the second.
Sinuosity. Food and snail size also had a significant interactive effect on path sinuosity (p < 0.0001), with snail order having a significant main effect (p < 0.001). In the presence of food, large snails were closer to another at the end of the trial than expected.
Final Distance Apart. Food and snail size also had an interactive effect on the final distance apart (p < 0.01), with snail order again having no effect. In the presence of food, large snails were closer to one another at the end of the trial than expected.
Snails revealed surprisingly complex behavior in this experiment.
- Small snails stalled longer at the beginning than larger snails, but they paused less often.
- Snails’ movement was affected by the presence of food, but snails of different sizes reacted differently to food.
- Large snails may have responded more strongly to food.
- When food was present, large and medium snails had more sinuous paths but also shorter paths than small and medium snails.
- Large and medium snails may have sensed food and performed a localized search for it.
- The second snail in trials started moving sooner than did the first, but took shorter, more sinuous paths.
- The prior presence of a conspecific may have decreased fear and possibly caused more localized movement.
- For all snail sizes, snails’ finishing points were closer when food was present. In part, this resulted from both snails tending to move toward the food.
- This study revealed that snails have complex responses to environmental signals, such as the scent of food or a conspecific, and that their size affects their responses to those signals.