Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS) in Biology




"Fossorial, or below ground, living provides shelter from the elements and some predators, but comes at a cost with respect to metabolic requirements of movement and reduced, or altered, sensory cues. I examined the ability of the North American pocket gopher, Thomomys talpoides, to use magnetoreception and olfaction in navigation and foraging. Magnetoreception was tested using three manipulative experiments: 1) field homing of displaced animals, 2) nest location in an 8-arm maze, and 3) movement through a complex labyrinth. Homing results, analyzed by V-test, indicated that the gophers displaced from their burrow systems relied on magnetic cues for homing orientation. Although Rayleigh analysis of the 8-arm maze tests showed limited significance, gophers tended to nest in the conditioned direction, and nesting direction shifted with an altered field. Repeated Measures ANOVA results of performance in time and number of wrong turns in the complex labyrinth showed no significant differences between conditioned trials (unaltered-field) and test (field rotated 90°) trials. Use of olfaction was tested in T-maze trials with soils containing carrot kairomone versus control soil. Binomial probability analysis revealed in all tests comparing carrot soil vs. control that gophers disproportionally selected the carrot soils. Overall my study suggests T talpoides can use both magnetic and olfactory cues while navigating, but the use of these cues is situation dependent. These results are similar to those found in other South American and Old World fossorial rodents"--Document.


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