Three nesting behaviour patterns are documented in the plethodontid salamander Hemidactylium scutatum. A female may lay eggs (1) in a solitary nest and brood them, (2) in a joint nest and brood them as well as eggs of other females, or (3) in a joint nest that is brooded by another female. The hypothesis that population density was positively associated with joint nesting was tested by following two populations for 5 years and by experimentally manipulating the population density of nesting females in artificial habitats for the latter 2 years. The proportion of joint nests did not vary with density, although joint nests tended to contain eggs of more females at the high population density. Joint nests were usually brooded by one female; thus, most females that laid eggs in joint nests did not brood them at high density. The reproductive success, as measured by survival of embryos, of solitary and joint nesters was equivalent. Joint nests were deserted less often, however, which decreased the probability of catastrophic mortality. The number of days of brooding was significantly positively correlated with loss of body mass of females, suggesting a cost to brooding behaviour. Joint nesting with solitary brooding is not explained by aggressive usurpation of nests or by brood parasitism.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Animal Science and Zoology