Alarm response by a plethodontid salamander (Desmognathus ochrophaeus): Conspecific and heterospecific "Schreckstoff"

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The detection of chemical alarm cues plays an important role for predator avoidance in many taxonomic groups, but little is known about the presence of such chemical cues in adult or caudate amphibians. We investigated the response (i.e., aversion or nonaversion) to chemical cues from damaged salamander skin and mealworms (Tenebrio molitor) in the plethodontid salamander, Desmognathus ochrophaeus. Avoidance responses were demonstrated to skin extracts of both conspecific and heterospecific salamanders. However, salamanders (D. ochrophaeus) did not avoid heated conspecific skin, fresh conspecific viscera, fresh mealworm, or fresh Plethodon richmondi skin extracts. These results indicate that chemical alarm cues are: (1) present in the skin of Desmognathus salamanders, (2) not present in mealworm or the viscera of Desmognathus salamanders, and (3) denatured or deactivated by heating. These results also suggest that an avoidance response to chemical cues from damaged conspecifics has adaptive value in predator avoidance in terrestrial as well as aquatic vertebrates. © 1994 Plenum Publishing Corporation.

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Journal of Chemical Ecology

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