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Abstract

Western redback and Dunn's salamanders (Plethodon vehiculum and Plethodon dunni, respectively) can distinguish between potential mates by using chemical cues. In laboratory choice tests, adult males of both species showed significant discrimination between chemical cues of gravid females over non-gravid females of equal body size. Furthermore, males of both species differentiated the odour of paired gravid females that differed by ≅ 5 mm snout-vent length (SVL). Given that clutch size is related to female body size in these species, adult males may be able to distinguish between females via cues that signal potentially high female reproductive success. In choice tests, P. vehiculum females did not discriminate between two relatively large males that differed by ≅ 5 mm SVL. However, females of P. vehiculum did discriminate between two relatively small males that differed by the same amount. Apparently, P. vehiculum females ranked males by both absolute and relative body size using chemical cues. This pattern could reflect a female preference for large males or that females avoid mating with the smallest males.