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Feeding Performance in Heterochronic Alpine Newts is Consistent with Trophic Niche and Maintenance of Polymorphism


Mathieu Denoël, Laboratory of Fish and Amphibian Ethology, Behavioural Biology Unit, Department of Life Sciences, University of Liège, Quai Van Beneden 22, 4020 Liege, Belgium. E-mail:


The feeding performances of two heterochronic morphs of the Alpine newt Triturus alpestris were investigated in laboratory experiments. Although both morphs are able to feed in the aquatic habitat, the hydrodynamics of prey capture differ between morphs. In paedomorphs water sucked with prey is expelled behind the mouth through gill bars. In metamorphs, water is expelled by the mouth as gill slits are closed. Feeding performance was better in paedomorphs than in metamorphs when foraging on aquatic crustaceans, but paedomorphs were less successful when foraging on terrestrial invertebrates caught at the water surface. These differences in prey capture success related to prey type allow the two morphs to use specific resources in their aquatic habitat. These results are consistent with previous studies that showed diet differentiation between morphs in natural populations. Such resource partitioning is a factor favouring the maintenance of facultative paedomorphosis in natural populations.