Territorial Pheromones of Female Red-backed Salamanders


Department of Biology, Lehigh University, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania 18015, U.S.A.

Department of Biology, University of Southwestern Louisiana, Lafayette, Louisiana 70504, U.S.A.


Pheromones provide an important source of communication during social interactions of caudate amphibians. To further examine their use in territorial defense, we performed a laboratory experiment to test the hypothesis that non-courting female red-backed salamanders (Plethodon cinereus) deposit pheromones in or on fecal pellets, as males are known to do during territorial advertisement. Four conditions were tested: (1) a burrow marked with a female's own pellet vs. a burrow marked by a conspecific female's pellet, (2) own vs. unmarked burrows, (3) conspecific vs. unmarked burrows, and (4) paired unmarked burrows as a control. Females nose-tapped (for olfactory cues) their own and conspecific pellets about equally. However, they spent significantly more time in both threat and submissive behavior toward the conspecific pellets and spent significantly more time in their own marked burrows. We infer that female P. cinereus do deposit pheromones in or on fecal pellets and that these pellets may be used to advertise territories. The behavioral responses of females toward pellets of other females were more aggressive than those of males (in a previous study) toward pellets of other males.