Socially facilitated antipredator behavior by ringed salamanders (Ambystoma annulatum)


Many aspects of animal behavior can be socially facilitated, including foraging behavior, exploration behavior, and antipredator behavior. Although larvae of the ringed salamander (Ambystoma annulatum) are not gregarious, they can live in high densities and face intense predation pressure during a short period following hatching. In a predator-recognition experiment, we found that these salamanders responded to chemical cues from dragonfly nymphs (Family: Libellulidae) with appropriate antipredator behavior (decreased activity), and this response was absent when salamanders were exposed to chemical cues from nonpredatory mayfly nymphs (Family: Heptageniidae). In a second experiment, we tested whether antipredator behavior in response to chemical cues of dragonflies could be socially facilitated by larval ringed salamanders. We placed an "observer" salamander into a central arena with four "demonstrator" salamanders behind clear barriers around an arena. The barriers ensured that chemical cues would not be detected by the observer. When demonstrators were exposed to chemical cues from dragonflies, the data were consistent with the hypothesis that both demonstrators and observers decreased activity relative to a blank control. Our results provide evidence that social facilitation can occur in larval ringed salamanders, a nonsocial species.



Document Type




Social facilitation, Predator recognition, Ringed salamander, Ambystoma annulatum, Dragonfly nymph

Publication Date


Journal Title

Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology