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The Influence of Social Environment: Behavior of Unrelated Adults Affects Future Juvenile Behaviors


  • Eric B. Liebgold

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Biological Sciences, Salisbury University, Salisbury, MD, USA
    • Correspondence

      Eric B. Liebgold, Henson Science Hall 230E, Department of Biological Sciences, Salisbury University, Salisbury, MD 21801, USA.


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Juveniles' behaviors are often influenced by the behaviors of conspecifics. Most experimental studies of the influence of conspecific behavior vary the social environment by the presence or absence of conspecifics or investigate the impact of the outcome of social encounters (winner/loser effects) but less frequently expose individuals to variation in behavioral phenotypes present in the social environment. Based on previous work showing that juveniles of the salamander Plethodon cinereus are likely to interact frequently with non-parental adults, I hypothesized that territorial adults in the social environment alter the future behaviors of juveniles. I measured the intracohort social behaviors of juvenile salamanders collected from two geographic areas, Michigan (MI) and Virginia (VA), before and after housing with ostensibly territorial (VA) or non-territorial (MI) adults. There were overall effects of adult territoriality and aggression on the behavior of juveniles. However, juveniles from populations in MI were especially susceptible to behavioral modification. Compared with behaviors prior to being housed with adults, MI juveniles increased investigatory and escape behaviors in juvenile–juvenile interactions after being housed with adults that displayed territorial behaviors and decreased investigatory and escape behaviors after being housed with non-territorial adults. This study shows that not only is a specific behavior, territoriality of adult salamanders, a social environment that modifies future juvenile behaviors, but the effects of social environment may differ between populations.