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A Batesian Mimetic Complex in Salamanders: Responses of Avian Predators

Ronnie R. Howard and Edmund D. Brodie, Jr.
Herpetologica
Vol. 29, No. 1 (Mar., 1973), pp. 33-41
Published by: Allen Press on behalf of the Herpetologists' League
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3891196
Page Count: 9
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A Batesian Mimetic Complex in Salamanders: Responses of Avian Predators
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Abstract

The red-spotted newt, Notophthalmus viridescens viridescens, is protected from predation by a noxious and toxic skin secretion. The black-chinned red salamander, Pseudotriton ruber schencki, closely resembles the red eft stage of Notophthalmus in coloration. Feeding experiments using 179 Pseudotriton, 150 eft Notophthalmus, 12 adult Notophthalmus, 22 Gyrinophilus porphyriticus, and 403 control Desmognathus sp. were carried out using 9 Blue Jays (Cyanocitta cristata), 1 Brown Thrasher (Toxostoma rufum), and 7 domestic chickens (Gallus domesticus) to determine if a mimetic complex exists between Pseudotriton and the terrestrial red eft stage of Notophthalmus. Birds that ate Pseudotriton before conditioning showed no signs of distaste or any harmful effects from ingestions of this salamander. Rejection of red efts occurred after only a few encounters, with rejection of Pseudotriton occurring afterwards. All birds, except one chicken, were unable to distinguish red efts from Pseudotriton and consistently rejected both on sight. The red eft served as an effective model for Pseudotriton regardless of size. Due to its larger size and more conspicuous coloration, Pseudotriton may convey a stronger warning signal to predators.

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