Gila Monsters
Field Site

Team DeNardo

Zach Stahlschmidt

B.S. with Honors. Animal Sciences. 2004. University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana.
Ph.D. Biology. 2011. Arizona State University.


Research Interests

My research interests while in the DeNardo lab encompassed the physiological, evolutionary, and ecological aspects of python brooding behavior.


Dissertation Work

My dissertation research investigated parental care tradeoffs using the Children's python (Antaresia childreni) as a model species. All female pythons exhibit a brooding behavior that involves tightly coiling around a clutch of eggs throughout the incubation period (more than 80 days in some species) characterized by anorexia. Because python egg brooding is dynamic yet limited in complexity, it is an exceptional model for examining how specific parental behaviors are balanced to meet the myriad needs of the developing offspring, as well as how abiotic and biotic factors influence investment into various parental behaviors. Thus, python egg brooding can provide insight into the adaptive significance of more complicated examples of female-only nest attendance, the most taxonomically diverse mode of parental care. My dissertation questions were:
1. How do egg-brooding behaviors impact the developmental environment and offspring phenotype?
2. Do abiotic and biotic proximate cues influence python egg-brooding behavior?
3. Do python eggshell permeability dynamics mediate an embryonic respiration-hydration tradeoff?


Previous Research

As an undergraduate at the University of Illinois, I conducted research under Dr. Lee Beverly investigating neuro-physiological mechanisms involved in blood glucose regulation. I also assisted in post-baccalaureate research under Matthew Richardson and Dr. Jeffrey Brawn encompassing the land-use ecology of prairie kingsnakes, small mammals, and northern bobwhite quail in a grassland system.


Publications from work conducted while in the DeNardo laboratory

DeNardo, D. F., Lourdais, O., and Stahlschmidt, Z. R. (2012) Are females maternal manipulators, selfish mothers, or both? Insight from pythons. Herpetologica, in press.

Stahlschmidt, Z. R., Shine, R., and DeNardo, D. F. (2012) The consequences of alternative parental care tactics in free-ranging pythons in tropical Australia. Functional Ecology, in press.

Stahlschmidt, Z. R., Shine, R., and DeNardo, D. F. (2012) Temporal and spatial complexity of maternal thermoregulation in tropical pythons. Physiological and Biochemical Zoology 85: 219-230.

Stahlschmidt, Z. R., Brashears, J. A., and DeNardo, D. F. (2011) Assessing the accuracy of ultrasound estimation of reproductive investment and output in pythons, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 103: 772-778.

Stahlschmidt, Z. R., DeNardo, D. F., Holland, J. N., Kotler, B. P., and Kruse-Peebles, M. (2011) Tolerance mechanisms in North American deserts: Biological and societal approaches to climate change. Journal of Arid Environments 75: 681-687.

Stahlschmidt, Z. R., Brashears, J. A., and DeNardo, D. F. (2011) The role of temperature and humidity in python nest-site selection, Animal Behaviour 81: 1077-1081.

Stahlschmidt, Z. R., Davis, J. R., and DeNardo, D. F. (2011) Sexual variation in assimilation efficiency: its link to phenotype and potential role in sexual dimorphism. Journal of Comparative Physiology B 181: 383-389.

Stahlschmidt, Z. R., and DeNardo, D. F. (2010) Parental care in snakes. In Reproductive Biology and Phylogeny of Snakes (R. D. Aldridge and D.M. Sever, eds.), Science Publishers Inc., Enfield, NH. Pp. 673-702.

Stahlschmidt, Z. R., Heulin, B., and DeNardo, D. F. (2010) The role of python eggshell permeability dynamics in a respiration-hydration tradeoff, Physiological and Biochemical Zoology 83: 576-586.

Stahlschmidt, Z. R., and DeNardo, D. F. (2010) Parental behavior in pythons is responsive to both the hydric and thermal dynamics of the nest. Journal of Experimental Biology 213: 1691-1696. [featured in “Inside JEB”, on the BBC web site’s “The Big Picture”, and on CNBC radio show “Quirks and Quarks”]

Stahlschmidt, Z. R., and DeNardo, D. F. (2009) Effect of nest temperature on egg-brooding behavior, metabolism, and clutch-nest thermal relations in Children's pythons (Antaresia childreni), Physiology and Behavior 98: 302-306.

Stahlschmidt, Z. R., and DeNardo, D. F. (2009) Obligate costs of parental care to offspring: Egg-brooding induced hypoxia creates smaller, slower, and weaker python offspring. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 98: 414-421.

Stahlschmidt, Z. R., Hoffman, T. C. M., and DeNardo, D. F. (2008) Postural shifts during egg-brooding and their impact on egg water balance in Children’s pythons (Antaresia childreni). Ethology. 114: 1113–1121.

Stahlschmidt, Z. R., and DeNardo D. F. (2008) Alternating egg brooding behaviors create and modulate a hypoxic developmental micro-environment in Children’s pythons (Antaresia childreni). Journal of Experimental Biology 211: 1535-1540.

Current Position

Post-doctoral Fellow

Department of Psychology

Dalhousie University
Supervisor: Shelley Adamo

email zrs@dal.ca

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