Jordan’s Salamander - a salamander with peculiar courtship behavior
The Jordan’s Salamander or Red-cheeked salamander, Plethodon jordani (Plethodontidae), is a medium-sized (11.2 cm average length), blue-black terrestrial salamander found only in the Great Smokey Mountains National Park, eastern United States. This Near Threatened species can be identified by its bright cheek patches, which are usually red, but occasionally orange or yellow, and are brighter on younger individuals.
The mating behavior of Plethodon jordani is quite curious and complex. When the male first contacts a female he moves the length of her body and performs tapping, nudging, or head-sliding. He also may perform a foot dance with any of these modes of head contact. The male apparently identifies the sex and species of his sexual partner by chemoreception during these movements, and he also probably uses chemoreception to tell if the female is gravid.
Once the male has contacted a female of his species, he locates her head. This is accomplished by trial and error because apparently the male has no means of distinguishing anterior from posterior as he moves along the length of the female. When the male reaches the female’s head he attempts to initiate a tail-straddling walk to deposit a spermatophore. The female must find the spermatophore and lower her abdomen over it to insert it into her cloaca.
Sometimes these salamander have homosexual courtships between males; this behavior has been considered a technique for sexual interference, inducing a rival male to deposit a spermatophore that serve no reproductive function (once a male has deposited a spermatophore, he usually does not court for several days).
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Photo: ©Mike Graziano
Locality: Great Smoky Mountains National Park, United States