The majority of studies of amphibian sociobiology focuses on breeding individuals. However, adults certainly interact when not breeding and may do so subtly and in natural habitats that are inaccessible to direct observation. We conducted three laboratory experiments to explore social interactions among non-breeding, adult long-toed salamanders (Ambystoma macrodactylum columbianum), which reside in terrestrial burrows in nature. In substrate discrimination tests, salamanders preferred areas that bore chemical cues indicative of occupancy by a conspecific relative to clean areas (Experiment 1). However, only females discriminated occupant sex, preferring to associate with chemical cues derived from males (Experiment 2). When provided with a partner, salamanders spent more time in cohabitation in an artificial burrow than residing alone (Experiment 3). Our data suggest that, in nature, non-breeding adults may be social rather than territorial; conspecifics may aggregate rather than exclude one another. However, males and females may experience different kinds of benefits and costs to sociality outside of the breeding season, perhaps as a function of sex differences in energetic requirements for future reproduction.
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Vol. 59 • No. 1