Author ORCID Identifier


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Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Environmental Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Rodney Dyer


Successful reproduction in salamanders is driven by behavioral, environmental, and temporal interactions among adults. While much of our understanding of salamander mating systems is based upon either courtship behavior of both sexes or aspects of female choice, the decisions made by males regarding where to place spermatophores is much less quantified. In this study, we mapped male spermatophore placement in the spotted salamander (Ambystoma maculatum) with respect to ecological and spatial locations within a vernal pool complex in Charles City County, Virginia. The overall goal was to use the spatial and ecological placement of spermatophores to determine if individuals deposit spermatophores randomly within the vernal pool or if males exhibited specific preferences for deposition. Using comprehensive surveys of the vernal pools and individual spermatophores within a 0.5m2 grid and terrestrial LIDAR, a total of 218 spermatophores were identified and mapped. We repeated these surveys for two successive breeding seasons. Placement occurred at an intermediate depth and an intermediate distance to the edge. Males also preferred to place spermatophores on leaf substrate as opposed to sticks or conifer needles. The physical placement of spermatophores exhibited autocorrelation in space during single reproductive events as well as across breeding seasons. These results suggest that males actively select for specific locations within a pool for spermatophore placement-a proverbial Goldilocks zone-which may be consistent with increased reproductive success. This information is key to understanding salamander mating system parameters in this species and may contribute to developing more effective management strategies.


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