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Socially facilitated antipredator behavior by ringed salamanders (Ambystoma annulatum)

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Abstract

Many aspects of animal behavior can be socially facilitated, including foraging behavior, exploration behavior, and antipredator behavior. Although larvae of the ringed salamander (Ambystoma annulatum) are not gregarious, they can live in high densities and face intense predation pressure during a short period following hatching. In a predator-recognition experiment, we found that these salamanders responded to chemical cues from dragonfly nymphs (Family: Libellulidae) with appropriate antipredator behavior (decreased activity), and this response was absent when salamanders were exposed to chemical cues from nonpredatory mayfly nymphs (Family: Heptageniidae). In a second experiment, we tested whether antipredator behavior in response to chemical cues of dragonflies could be socially facilitated by larval ringed salamanders. We placed an “observer” salamander into a central arena with four “demonstrator” salamanders behind clear barriers around an arena. The barriers ensured that chemical cues would not be detected by the observer. When demonstrators were exposed to chemical cues from dragonflies, the data were consistent with the hypothesis that both demonstrators and observers decreased activity relative to a blank control. Our results provide evidence that social facilitation can occur in larval ringed salamanders, a nonsocial species.

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Acknowledgements

We thank the Missouri State University Biology Department for support. We are especially grateful to the Kirby family for access to their pond, and we thank Janice Greene, director of Bull Shoals Field Station, for access to our other collecting site. We also thank Andrew Hoffman for help collecting egg masses, and we thank Michael Lampe and Valerie Jones for help with observations in Experiment 1.

Ethical standards

This project was approved by Missouri State University’s IACUC (protocol: 2008AA) which follows the current guidelines in the state of Missouri and in the USA for the humane and ethical use of animals in research. Collecting was conducted with permits from the Missouri Department of Conservation (permits: 14363 and 13611).

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Correspondence to Adam Crane.

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Communicated by T. Bakker

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Crane, A., Mathis, A. & McGrane, C. Socially facilitated antipredator behavior by ringed salamanders (Ambystoma annulatum). Behav Ecol Sociobiol 66, 811–817 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00265-012-1329-0

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