Fine-scale selection by ovipositing females increases egg survival



Brian G. Gall, Department of Biology, Hanover College, P.O. Box 108, Hanover, Indiana 47243. Tel: +812 866 7249; Fax: +812 866 2164; E-mail:


One of the most important defenses for the eggs of ovipositing female organisms is to avoid being laid in the same habitat as their predators. However, for most organisms, completely avoiding an offspring's predators is not possible. One mechanism that has been largely overlooked is for females to partition an oviposition site into microhabitats that differ in quality for offspring survival. We conducted a series of experiments to examine whether female newts avoid microhabitats utilized by their offspring's primary predator, caddisfly larvae. Female newts avoided laying eggs near predatory caddisflies and shifted egg laying upward in the water column when provided with a vertical dimension. Caddisflies were attracted to chemical stimuli from female newts and their eggs, yet primarily used benthic areas in experimental chambers. Finally, results from a field experiment indicate that the behavioral strategy employed by female newts increases offspring survival. This subset of non-genetic maternal effects, micro-oviposition avoidance, is likely an important yet underexplored mechanism by which females increase offspring survival.