Experimental evaluation of agonistic behaviour, chemical communication, spacing, and intersexual associations of the eastern red-backed salamander (plethodon cinereus) near its northern range limit

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Authors: N. Rollinson and D. Hackett
Date: Oct. 2015
From: Canadian Journal of Zoology(Vol. 93, Issue 10)
Publisher: NRC Research Press
Document Type: Report
Length: 7,498 words
Lexile Measure: 1500L

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Abstract :

Territorial behaviour is the use of aggression and advertisement in the defense of a fixed area. In the Eastern Red-backed Salamander (Plethodon cinereus (Green, 1818)), territoriality is prevalent in Virginia, USA, near the southern extent of its range, but few studies have examined whether northern populations exhibit territorial behaviour. We tested for some prerequisites of territorial behaviour in P. cinereus at the northern extent its range, near North Bay, Ontario, Canada. In laboratory trials, we found that adult male P. cinereus exhibited a modest degree of aggression, and intruding salamanders attempted to escape the experimental chamber more often than residents. We also found that P. cinereus were able to differentiate between familiar and unfamiliar substrates, suggesting pheromonal communication and a potential for territorial advertisement. However, while male-female pairs were common at six sampling sites during the mating season, adult salamanders consistently exhibited a random spatial distribution during the nonmating season. Our study suggests that local P. cinereus exhibit low-level aggression but may not defend fixed areas. One possibility is that P. cinereus may generally not benefit from territorial behaviour in cooler climates, as evapotranspiration rates will be lower and foraging activity less restricted compared with more southern climates. Key words: territorial behaviour, territoriality, aggression, nose tapping, Eastern Red-backed Salamander, Plethodon cinereus, geographic variation, body size, agonistic encounter, threat displays. Le comportement territorial consiste en l'utilisation de l'agressivite et de l'annonce pour defendre une zone fixe. Si, chez la salamandre cendree (Plethodon cinereus (Green, 1818)), la territorialite prevaut en Virginie (E.-U.), pres de la limite meridionale de l'aire de repartition, peu d'etudes ont tente de determiner si les populations septentrionales presentent un comportement territorial. Nous avons verifie la presence de certaines conditions prealables au comportement territorial chez P. cinereus a la limite septentrionale de son aire, pres de North Bay, Ontario (Canada). Dans des essais en laboratoire, nous avons constate que les P. cinereus adultes males presentaient un faible degre d'agressivite, et les salamandres intruses dans l'enceinte experimentale tentaient de s'en echapper plus souvent que les individus residents. Nous avons egalement constate que les P. cinereus etaient capables de distinguer les substrats qui leur etaient familiers d'autres substrats, ce qui pourrait indiquer une communication pherormonale et la possibilite d'annoncer la presence du territoire. Cependant, si les couples male-femelle etaient repandus en six sites d'echantillonnage durant la saison des amours, les salamandres adultes presentaient uniformement une repartition spatiale aleatoire en dehors de cette saison. Notre etude donne a penser que, si les P. cinereus locaux presentent un faible degre d'agressivite, ils pourraient ne pas defendre de zones fixes. Il est possible que le comportement territorial dans des climats frais ne presente generalement pas d'avantages pour P. cinereus, puisque les taux d'evapotranspiration y sont plus faibles et l'activite d'approvisionnement moins restreinte par rapport aux climats plus meridionaux. [Traduit par la Redaction] Mots-cles : comportement territorial, territorialite, agressivite, tapement du museau, salamandre cendree, Plethodon cinereus, variation geographique, taille du corps, rencontre agonistique, attitudes menacantes.

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A431533691