, Volume 55, Issue 6, pp 556-560

Heterospecific call recognition and phonotaxis in the orientation behavior of the marbled newt, Triturus marmoratus

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Abstract

The role of acoustic cues as reference cues for orientation by amphibians has been demonstrated in anurans, the only amphibian group that engages in acoustic communication, but not in urodeles. Orientation responses of marbled newts, Triturus marmoratus, were studied to determine whether heterospecific calls elicited positive phonotaxis. The orientation tests consisted in presenting either a familiar acoustic stimulus, the advertisement calls of natterjack toads (Bufo calamita), or a control stimulus, the advertisement calls of European green toads (Bufo viridis) that the newts would not be expected to recognize. Marbled newts and natterjack toads occur in simpatry, but T. marmoratus and B. viridis are allopatric species. Thus, T. marmoratus is distributed over the northern half of the Iberian Peninsula, whereas B. viridis occurs in the Balearic Islands, but not over the Iberian Peninsula. Newts were released in a circular arena while a recorded chorus of natterjack toads or European green toads played outside the arena to determine whether they displayed positive phonotactic orientation. Our results show that marbled newts performed positive phonotaxis when exposed to the breeding calls of natterjack toads, but not to those of European green toads. Newts chose a compass course in the direction of the advertisement calls of B. calamita. Acoustic information might improve orientation accuracy. This study is the first to provide evidence of heterospecific call recognition and positive phonotactic response in urodeles.

Communicated by W. Wiltschko