A Quantified Ethogram for Oviposition in Triturus Newts: Description and Comparison of T. helveticus and T. vulgaris


Karen M. Norris, Department of Biological Sciences, University College Chester, Chester, CH1 4BJ, UK. E-mail: k.norris@chester.ac.uk


Female newts of the genus Triturus deposit and wrap their eggs individually in the submerged leaves of aquatic macrophytes. Although this behaviour has previously been described, the different elements of the oviposition process have not been fully characterized nor any attempt made to quantify the behavioural elements. The study examined the oviposition behaviour of the two similarly sized species, Triturus helveticus and T. vulgaris on a standardized substrate macrophyte, Rorippa nasturtium–aquaticum. Continuous focal sampling was used to develop a baseline of discrete behavioural elements enabling quantification and comparison of oviposition behaviour between the two species. The results showed that the same pattern of elements was followed for each egg laid and the same key elements of the process were present in each newt species. Although these are broadly similar in size, there were striking differences in certain aspects of the oviposition sequence between the two species. Key findings were that leaf sniffing and leaf flexing and a measure of the duration of ovipositing were all significantly greater in females of T. helveticus and females of T. vulgaris laid significantly more eggs than those of T. helveticus in a standard observation period. The work presented here defines a baseline ethogram and shows how it can be used to reveal quantifiable differences in closely related species. This demonstrates its value in furthering our understanding of oviposition – a key aspect of female behaviour currently understudied in Triturus behavioural ecology, despite its intrinsic interest and value in understanding recruitment and maintenance of populations.