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Modelling terrestrial interactions and shelter use in great crested newts (Triturus cristatus)

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The great crested newt (Triturus cristatus) is a pond-breeding salamander with a prolonged aquatic phase and a period of activity in the terrestrial environment prior to hibernation. Individuals use ground-covering objects and burrows as shelters from predators and unfavourable conditions. We investigated how interactions and spacing patterns were formed in staged experiments where paired newts were exposed to an arena with two shelters. Shelter use was predominant in all sets of great crested newts, irrespective of sex and size. Males and females differed in their shelter-use response. Females were more prone to reside in shelters when meeting other females than when meeting males, whereas males appeared indifferent to the sex of another individual. The social interaction was uniform for all combinations, with a 2:1 relation between the numbers of pairs sharing shelters vs. positioned in different shelters, instead of a random 1:1 distribution. Thus, the differences in shelter sharing could be attributed to the predominance of shelter use for females when meeting other females. We suggest that this behaviour, when females respond to the presence of another female, is a form of resource protection. Although sex effects were clearly noted, we could not demonstrate that size-related characteristics affected the outcome of any social interactions.

Affiliations: 1: Biodiversity Monitoring and Conservation, County Administration of Örebro, SE-701 86 Örebro, Sweden; 2: Tjugesta 615, SE-705 97 Glanshammar, Sweden; 3: Villa Solhems väg 5, SE-703 76 Örebro, Sweden


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