Context-dependent reproductive habitat selection: The interactive roles of structural complexity and cannibalistic conspecifics

Asaf Sadeh, Marc Mangel, Leon Blaustein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Structural complexity generally reduces predation and cannibalism rates. Although the benefits from this effect vary among environmental contexts and through time, it has been the common explanation for high species abundance in complex habitats. We hypothesized that oviposition habitat selection for structural complexity depends on the expected trophic function of the progeny. In Salamandra infraimmaculata larvae, expected trophic function is dictated by their sequence of deposition. First cohorts cannibalize later-arriving cohorts, while all compete for shared prey resources. In a mesocosm experiment, we show that gravid salamanders facing conspecific-free pools preferred structurally simple habitats (no rocks), while females facing only pools with older conspecific larvae preferred complex habitats (with rocks). Context-dependent preference of habitat complexity for managing food/safety trade-offs may be extended from classic foraging patch decisions to breeding habitat selection. These trade-offs vary with dynamic larval processes such as priority effects and ontogenetic diet shifts, potentially leading to complex maternal parturition behaviours.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1158-1164
Number of pages7
JournalEcology Letters
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2009


  • Complex life cycles
  • Discrete habitats
  • Foraging rate
  • Intercohort priority effects
  • Intraguild predation
  • Intraspecific competition
  • Larviposition site selection
  • Risk of predation
  • Spatial heterogeneity
  • Temporary pools

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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