SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

Abstract

In organisms lacking parental care or when eggs of more than one female are layed together, parents preferentially tend to avoid eating their own offspring. In some species of newts (Caudata: Salamandridae), there is no parental care and cannibalism of eggs and larvae occurs when philopatric adults remain in the pond throughout the breeding season where eggs and larvae develop. Kin discrimination by both adult newts and larvae would be expected to occur during the breeding season as it would enable individuals to benefit from the nutrients obtained from eating eggs and larvae while they avoid eating close relatives. The effects of kinship on cannibalism of eggs and larvae were examined in two species of newts. In separate, but similar, paired behavioral trials adult female red-spotted newts, Notophthalmus viridescens, and smooth newts, Triturus vulgaris, were allowed to consume their own egg or an egg from another female. Female red-spotted newts, but not smooth newts, preferred to eat eggs of other females rather than their own, and overall smooth newts were ‘reluctant’ to eat conspecific eggs. To test for ontogenetic shifts in discrimination abilities, additional experiments were performed with adult female red-spotted newts paired with their own larvae and a larva from another female. In addition, the effects of kinship on the attraction or repulsion of larvae was also studied in red-spotted newts. Females showed no significant discrimination abilities during acts of cannibalism on larvae. Larvae spent similar amounts of time with siblings and non-siblings. These results suggest that the ability of adult newts to discriminate among eggs varies between species and that the elicitation of a kin-discrimination response may be context-dependent. For red-spotted newts, there was no evidence of discrimination abilities within and between other life-history stages.