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Marbled salamanders (Ambystoma opacum) choose low elevation nest sites when cover availability is controlled

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Nest site selection is an important part of adult reproductive behavior because growth and survival of young are often affected by the local environment. In terrestrially nesting marbled salamanders, nest elevation is likely important to reproductive success because it is directly related to the time of hatching. We tested the hypothesis that females choose nest sites based on elevation and its correlates by controlling the availability of nesting cover, a potentially important factor in nest site selection which often covaries with elevation. Breeding adults were confined to field enclosures in which natural nesting cover had been removed and replaced with equal proportions of artificial cover in each of three elevation zones. In four enclosures that spanned from lowest to highest areas of a wetland breeding site, females used artificial nesting cover most frequently at low elevations. These results contrast with other studies in which intermediate elevations had highest nest densities, but are consistent with a conceptual model in which opposing selective forces result in locally adapted nest site selection.


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