Salamander Territoriality: Pheromonal Markers as Advertisement by Males

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History & Political Science


A laboratory experiment was performed to test the hypothesis that male red-backed salamanders (Plethodon cinereus) use pheromones contained in faecal pellets to identify male-marked territories. Each of 25 males was tested randomly under four conditions: (1) a burrow marked with its own faecal pellet versus one marked with a conspecific's pellet; (2) own-marked versus surrogate-marked burrows (the surrogate being a pellet of wadded paper); (3) conspecific-marked versus surrogate-marked burrows; and (4) a control of two surrogate-marked burrows. Males spent significantly more time in own-marked than in conspecific-marked burrows and significantly more time in surrogate-marked than in conspecific-marked burrows. Males favoured own-marked over surrogate-marked burrows. No position bias was found in the control. Males spent significantly more time nose-tapping (olfactory sampling) to a conspecific's pellet when it was paired with a surrogate but showed no differences in the other three tests. Significantly more time was spent in a submissive posture in front of the conspecific-marked burrow than in front of either their own-marked or the surrogate-marked burrows; no difference was found between own-marked versus surrogate-marked burrows or in the control. Time spent in the threat posture did not differ significantly between burrows in any condition. These data permit the inferences that males of P. cinereus use faecal pellets to mark and identify territories, avoid or display submissively toward burrows marked by conspecific males, and prefer own-marked shelters.



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Animal Behaviour