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Space Use in Response to Conspecifics by the Red-backed Salamander (Plethodon cinereus, Plethodontidae, Caudata)


  • Vanessa S. Quinn,

  • Brent M. Graves

Department of Biology, Northern Michigan University, Marquette, Michigan

Corresponding author: V. S. Quinn, Department of Life Sciences, Indiana State University, Terre Haute, IN 47809, USA. E-mail: lsvquinn©


The presence of conspecifics, as well as the distribution and quality of resources, can influence habitat settlement decisions of animals. We studied the habitat preference and group size of the red-backed salamander, Plethodon cinereus, from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. In contrast to previous work with P. cinereus from Virginia, we found groups of P. cinereus within higher quality habitat than solitary individuals and these groups contained both small and large individuals. Under identical conditions in the laboratory, salamanders from Virginia formed a uniform spatial distribution and individuals from northern Michigan displayed an aggregated spatial distribution. Our results suggest that P. cinereus from northern Michigan preferentially settle near conspecifics, while P. cinereus from Virginia avoid them. Our laboratory experiments also suggest that the aggregation behaviour of P. cinereus from northern Michigan may be the result of attraction to conspecifics rather than attraction to habitat features.