Near the Water's Edge: Cottonmouth Spatial Ecology, Behavior, Cognition and Neurobiology (pp. 315-334)
Authors: (Eric D. Roth, University of Delaware, DE, USA)
Abstract: From predator-prey interactions to physiological ecology, the location of an organism is intimately interwoven with countless factors related to survival, reproductive success, and evolutionary fitness. As suitable habitat is continually destroyed and fragmented, knowledge of how an organism uses available space and interacts with the spatial environment will be of the utmost importance to wildlife management and conservation efforts. My diverse interests have centered on the field of spatial ecology with an emphasis on spatial behavior, cognition, and neurobiology. Where is an organism and why is it there? What factors influence animal navigation? What mechanisms underlie the integration of sensory information, spatial perception, decision making, learning, and memory? How do ecological, biological/physiological, cognitive, and neurobiological factors interact to produce spatial behavior? Much of my research investigates these types of questions and focuses on the cottonmouth (Agkistrodon piscivorus) as a model organism. This snake commonly inhabits key wetland ecosystems throughout the southeastern United States and is generally located along the edges of streams, rivers, lakes, and other aquatic habitats. Throughout this chapter I take a multidisciplinary approach highlighting many fascinating spatial elements of the amazing cottonmouth and attempt to use these cottonmouth examples to build a blueprint for the future of integrative studies in the field of spatial ecology.