Courtship behaviour and male sexual competition of the Taliang crocodile newt, Liangshantriton taliangensis

in Amphibia-Reptilia
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The Taliang crocodile newt, Liangshantriton taliangensis, which is endemic to south-western China, is a rare salamandrid species with a distinct evolutionary history. Using combined field observations and captive experiments, we studied the courtship behaviour and male sexual interference of this species and composed a complete ethogram of its courtship behaviour. Unlike previous reports on sperm transfer, male L. taliangensis did not deposit spermatophores during ventral amplexus and females did not pick up sperm masses in this courtship phase. Sperm transfer was only performed during arm-hooking pin-wheel circling, which distinguishes L. taliangensis from Tylototriton species and supports the validity of genus Liangshantriton. Whether L. taliangensis shows bimodality in sperm transfer needs to be explored in additional populations. In the presence of sexual competitors, male L. taliangensis adjusted the duration of their behaviour. We found that males with longer snout-vent length, heavier mass, and higher tailfins may have an advantage in intrasexual competition.

Courtship behaviour and male sexual competition of the Taliang crocodile newt, Liangshantriton taliangensis

in Amphibia-Reptilia



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    The map of sampling locality and experimental site. 1: Breeding pond of L. taliangensis (29.020474°N, 102.392983°E, 2108.2 m asl.); 2: Gongyihai station (29.025792°N, 102.384290°E, 2060.6 m asl.).

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    Diagrammatic representation of courtship behaviour and photo of spermatophores in L. taliangensis. Female is greyish white, male is black. (a) The male approaches the female, also see videos at (b) The male sniffs at the female, (c) The male fans tail toward the female, (d) Ventral amplexus, (e) Pin-wheel circling. Arrows indicate direction of movement, the black dot represents a spermatophore. (f) Photo of spermatophores in stack, number shows the sequence of deposition, Painting: Zhengqiang Jiang. Photo: Yuzhou Gong.

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    Behaviour traits showed in dyadic (n = 16) and triadic (n = 9) trials. “M to F” means “Male to female” and “M to M” means “Male to male”. If the superscripts beside the value are same, the disparity in a column has no statistical significance, otherwise the difference is statistically significant.

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    Morphological traits of amplectant males (n = 12) and non-amplectant males (n = 110). If the superscripts beside the value are the same, the disparity in a column has no statistical significance, otherwise the difference is statistically significant.

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    Comparison of behaviour durations between L. taliangensis and T. shanjing. The data of T. shanjing were from Ni et al. (2015), they observed 152 courtship sequences in total.

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    Courtship trait exhibited in Liangshantriton, Tylototriton, Yaotriton, Echinotriton, Pleurodeles and Salamandrina. Table entries: 0 = no report, 1 = reported. Species denoted: L. t = Liangshantriton taliangensis, T. v = Tylototriton verrucosus, T. k = Tylototriton kweichowensis, T. s = Tylototriton shanjing, Y. w = Yaotriton wenxianensis, E. c = Echinotriton chinhaiensis, E. a = Echinotriton andersoni, P. w = Pleurodeles waltl, S. p = Salamandrina perspicillata. References: 1 = Fleck (1997); 2 = Kühnel et al. (1999); 3 = This study; 4 = Dasgupta (1994); 5 = Shrestha (2001); 6 = Roy and Mushahidunnabi (2001); 7 = Fleck (1992); 8 = Wang, Chen and Hu (1995); 9 = Tian, Sun and Li (1997); 10 = Rehberg (1986); 11 = Schultschik, Grosse and Fleck (2013); 12 = Ni et al. (2015); 13 = Mou (2008); 14 = Fleck (2013); 15 = F. Pansmans, pers. comm; 16 = Sparreboom, Xie and Fei (2001); 17 = Utsunomiya (1982); 18 = Utsunomiya and Matsui (2002); 19 = Houck and Arnold (2003); 20 = Sparreboom (2014); 21 = Bruni and Romano (2011).


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