Identification of sex and parasitism via pheromones by the Ozark zigzag salamander
Chemical communication appears to be the primary mode of information transfer among woodland salamanders of the genus Plethodon. These pheromones have been shown to convey a wide variety of information, and are used to establish territorial boundaries. Responses to pheromones can include changes in both behavior and energy consumption. The ability of Ozark zigzag salamanders, Plethodon angusticlavius, to detect the sex of a conspecific through chemical substrate markings has not been assessed. In addition, some populations of P. angusticlavius are naturally infected with the ectoparasitic mite Hannemania eltoni. Parasitism can impact both the behavior and metabolism of the host as well as the behavior of others towards the parasitized individual. We examined whether sex and parasitism of the pheromone donor and receiver influenced behavioral and metabolic responses in P. angusticlavius. In laboratory trials, behavior of P. angusticlavius was influenced by the sex and parasite load of the pheromone donors and receivers. Behavioral responses were also influenced by whether the receiver was in its own territory or in the territory of the pheromone donor. Metabolic responses were not affected by the sex or parasite load of the pheromone donor, but males had higher metabolic rates than females, even after adjusting for differences in body size. Overall, our study indicates that both sex and parasitism can be detected via pheromones in this species, and the nature of the response depends on residency status, sex, and parasite load of the receiver.