, Volume 179, Issue 2, pp 425–433 | Cite as

Intercohort size structure dynamics of fire salamander larvae in ephemeral habitats: a mesocosm experiment

  • Asaf Sadeh
  • Antonina Polevikov
  • Marc Mangel
  • Leon Blaustein
Population ecology - Original research


The size structure of a larval population facilitates interaction asymmetries that, in turn, influence the dynamics of size-structure. In species that exhibit conspicuous aggressive interactions, the competitive effects of the smaller individuals may be overlooked. We manipulated initial size differences between two larval cohorts and young-cohort density of Salamandra infraimmaculata in mesocosms to determine: (1) whether young individuals function primarily as prey or as competitors of older and larger individuals; (2) the resulting dynamics of size variation; and (3) recruitment to the postmetamorph population. Intercohort size differences generally remained constant over time at low young-cohort densities, but reduced over time at high densities due to retardation of the old-cohort growth rate. This suggests a competitive advantage to the young cohort that outweighs the interference advantage of older cohorts previously documented in this species. The increase in mortality from desiccation due to high young-cohort density was an order of magnitude greater in the old cohort than in the young-cohort, further indicating size-dependent vulnerability to competition. However, the conditions least favorable to most of the old-cohort larvae (large size difference and high young-cohort density) promoted cannibalism. Among cannibals, mortality and time to metamorphosis decreased and sizes at metamorphosis increased substantially. Thus, a balance between the competitive advantage to young cohorts, and the interference and cannibalism advantage to old cohorts shapes larval size-structure dynamics. Larval densities and individual expression of cannibalism can shift this balance in opposite directions and alter relative recruitment rates from different cohorts.


Amphibians Exploitative competition Fire salamander Niche shifts Priority effects 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Asaf Sadeh
    • 1
    • 2
  • Antonina Polevikov
    • 1
  • Marc Mangel
    • 3
    • 4
  • Leon Blaustein
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Evolutionary and Environmental Biology and the Institute of Evolution, Faculty of Natural SciencesUniversity of HaifaHaifaIsrael
  2. 2.Department of EntomologyHebrew University of JerusalemRehovotIsrael
  3. 3.Department of Applied Mathematics and the Center for Stock AssessmentUniversity of CaliforniaSanta CruzUSA
  4. 4.Department of BiologyUniversity of BergenBergenNorway

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