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Abstract

We conducted a comparative investigation of nest relocation and egg recognition by four species of streamside salamanders indigenous to eastern North America: Seepage Salamander (Desmognathus aeneus), Santeetlah Salamander (Desmognathus santeetlah), Ocoee Salamander (Desmognathus ocoee), and Northern Dusky Salamander (Desmognathus fuscus). Females of all four species were able to relocate their nest sites following displacement of 1 m. Upon return to a nest site following natural displacement, females must be able to recognize their eggs and, in some instances, choose between their own clutch and the unattended clutch of a conspecific. In two-choice behavioral tests, female salamanders of all four species moved randomly within the test chamber in the absence of eggs, but preferred their own eggs to a filter paper blank. One species, D. fuscus, exhibited a similar attraction to conspecific eggs suggesting that the presence of eggs, regardless of their origin, may stimulate maternal care in physiologically primed females. We found that egg discrimination is not as infallible as previously reported. All four species spent more time with their own eggs than they did with the eggs of a conspecific female; however, this trend was significant for D. ocoee only. Interspecific variation in egg discrimination is attributed to differential selection associated with the life history of individual species.