Courtship behavior of the Cumberland Plateau woodland salamander, Plethodon kentucki (Amphibia: Plethodontidae), with a review of courtship in the genus Plethodon

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Complete catalogs of courtship behavior are available for only seven of the 42 currently recognized species of Plethodon. Additional detailed studies of courtship behavior in Plethodon species are needed to analyze the evolution of courtship behavior in this genus. We investigated the courtship behavior of the Cumberland Plateau woodland salamander (Pletbodon kentucki) and compared it to previous accounts of courtship in other Plethodon species. In the laboratory, we videotaped the complete courtship of 30 different P. kentucki pairs, which included 46 tail-straddling walks that resulted in spermatophore deposition. From a transition matrix of observed motor patterns, we constructed a flow diagram of significant motor- pattern transitions during courtship. In general, the courtship behavior of this species is very similar to that of other large eastern Plethodon; however, there are some notable differences. Prior to the tail-straddling walk, the male transfers courtship pheromone from his mental gland to the female's nasolabial grooves (via mental-gland tapping and 'chin-to chin' behavior patterns) more frequently than in other Plethodon. In most courtships, the female initiates contact leading to the tail straddling walk. Males exhibit a greater propensity to deposit multiple spermatophores per courtship (two deposited in 33% of courtships, three deposited in 10% of courtships, X̄ = 1.53 spermatophores per courtship) than males of other plethodontids. Mean size of the spermatophore is smaller than in other large eastern Plethodon. Overall, the courtship behavior of this species is most similar to that of P. jordani.

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