Territorial male salamanders have foraging tactics attractive to gravid females

Robert G. Jaeger, Julie Schwarz, Sharon E. Wise

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


During courtship periods, female red-backed salamanders, Plethodon cinereus, 'squash' male faecal pellets and prefer to associate with males that have the residue of lightly armoured prey (termites) in their faeces relative to males with the residue of highly armoured prey (ants). Apparently this rapid assessment of a male's diet allows females to assess his territorial quality. Two hypotheses, derived from these data, were tested. In a habitat where ants are common but termites are rare, (1) males should preferentially feed on termites in a choice situation with ants and (2) males should need to learn less about foraging tactics used to capture termites than to capture ants. Males were trained for 21 days on a diet of only termites, only ants, both prey types together, or neither (dipterans as a diet) and then were compared for their foraging successes when presented with an equal ratio of termites and ants. Under all conditions of training, males preferred to eat termites. Males learned to begin attacks on ants faster when trained on ants, and on termites faster when trained on termites. Those trained on ants learned to capture ants more efficiently (fewer tongue-strikes per capture) and, thus, they reduced the time from encounter to capture relative to other training conditions. However, training had no significant influence on capture efficiency (consistently high) and time from encounter to capture of termites (consistently short). Therefore, males have to learn more to refine their foraging tactics with ants than with termites and are more efficient foragers on a prey type that makes them attractive to females.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)633-639
Number of pages7
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1995


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