Stream Salamanders Accurately Assess Size-Dependent Predation Threats

Kristen K. Cecala, Steven J. Price, Michael E. Dorcas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Individual size is an important determinant of the outcomes of inter-and intraspecific interactions. Different-sized members of a guild might represent prey, competitors, or predators. Although direct predation rates might be low, trait-mediated indirect effects of predators on prey can yield altered activity, microhabitat use, survival, and growth. If individuals respond to all sizes of a predator regardless of the predation threat, antipredator behaviors might incur costs for prey as they forgo foraging opportunities or experience predation by other predators. Accurate assessment of predation risk would minimize costs resulting from antipredator behavior. We evaluated the ability of larval salamanders to assess predation risk and alter their habitat selection in response to intraguild competitors and predators. Specifically, we assessed behavioral responses to the presence of a conspecific, a similarly sized heterospecific, and a small or large individual of a predatory species. We predicted that larval salamanders would select habitat differently in the presence of a large predatory heterospecific, but not in the presence of similarly sized heterospecifics or conspecifics. The focal species occupied habitat 29 ± 0.02% farther from a large heterospecific predator than from small heterospecifics, even if the heterospecifics were smaller individuals of the predatory species. The focal species also exhibited escape behaviors only in the presence of the large members of the predatory species. These data indicate that salamander larvae can assess size-specific predation threats, minimizing predation risk through use of antipredator behaviors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)184-189
Number of pages6
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 by The Herpetologists' League, Inc.


  • Desmognathus
  • Intraguild predation
  • Pseudotriton
  • Threat sensitive
  • Trait-mediated indirect interactions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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