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Agonistic Behaviour in Larvae of the Northwestern Salamander (Ambystoma Gracile): the Effects of Kinship, Familiarity and Population Source

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image of Behaviour

We examined whether kinship and familiarity influenced the agonistic behaviour of larvae from three different populations of the Northwestern salamander, Ambystoma gracile. We tested for differential behaviour (1) between individuals within each population; (2) among the three populations; and (3) between non-siblings originating from the same, versus a different, pond. Within each population, larvae failed to discriminate conspecifics based upon either their genetic relatedness or their familiarity. However, individuals from one population displayed significantly more agonistic behaviour than did larvae from the other two populations. Neither familiarity nor the population source of individuals, by themselves, influenced the ability of individuals to discriminate between unrelated larvae from the same, versus a different, pond. Rather, familiarity and pond of origin interacted to alter larval behaviour in a non-additive fashion. This familiarity x pond interaction suggests that, under some conditions, larvae could distinguish between conspecifics from their own, versus a different pond; i.e. larvae significantly reduced acts of aggression and submission toward unrelated individuals from a different pond, but only when they were familiarized. The apparent lack of kin discrimination in A. gracile contrasts with the discriminatory abilities of most other amphibians that have been investigated. Thus, scrutiny of the life history and ecology of this species may provide important clues as to the selective forces operating on the evolution of kin discrimination in larval amphibians.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Biology, The City College of The City University of New York, Convent Avenue at 138th Street, New York, NY 10031, USA; 2: Department of Zoology, Oregon State University, 3029 Cordley Hall, Corvallis, OR 97331-2914, USA; 3: Department of Forest Sciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331, USA


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