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Fat Salamanders

September 19, 2007

Some salamander larvae eat more so they won’t fit in predators’ mouths.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):
Fighting predators with gluttony. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

When spotted salamander larvae binge-eat, they’ve got a good excuse: they do it so they’ll be too fat to fit in predators’ mouths. This according to ecologist Mark Urban, now at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis in Santa Barbara. He explains that bigger, marbled salamander larvae eat the spotted larvae, but only up to a certain size.

MARK URBAN:
There is a very strong cutoff point between the ones that get eaten and the ones that are able to survive. (:08)

HIRSHON:
While at Yale University, Urban found that spotted salamander larvae ate more frequently, and got fatter, in ponds that were more heavily infested with the predatory larvae. But Urban says this extra foraging is risky, because it exposes the spotted larvae to other kinds of predators – which is why they pig out only when it’s necessary. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.