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matthew
5th October 2003, 17:41
At the risk of making something big out of a something small I just wanted to share a bit of behaviour I spotted last week from my Sals (juvenile Gallaica).
They are in a large contico box, paper tissue, cork bark & the Contico snake box is unusually transparent. I tipped in my crickets and sat back to watch - I always enjoy watching young fire salamander morphs dig into their grub. They are so pretty and delicate and yet such determined hunters. They always seem so feline in the way they stand, watch and chase!
All five came out from under the log together which was quite comical. One locked onto a small cricket that jumped over them and ran up the log, so that morph double-backed over the top of the log at speed to get it.
Very quickly the crickets seemed to head for the edge of the moist towelling. They seemed to want to drink water droplets rather than climb up and out. Most congregated in one corner and spread out along the sides, either side. The other four young gallaica ambled over but then stopped in unison.
They formed a perfect circle and appeared to forget the food for a moment. They then spent the best part of a minute in what I can only describe - I don't what to humanise animals but this is what it looked like - trying to stand above each other. It was like a competition to stand the highest and it involved pushing the opposing animals' heads down into the tissue. It was a really odd spectacle, quite a comedy ballet.
Now I've seen one animal do this to another but it always seemed like get-out-my-way-because-there-is-a-cricket-behind-you. This was a prolonged group wrestle with no obvious foodstuff close to the animals. The way they were repeatedly trying to push each others' heads down was really quite surprising!
Eventually the one who came out on top stopped the scrum first and headed back over to Cricket Corner with the others trailing.
Better drama than what was on tv that night...

My questions are:
*Is this what it seemed like - territorial behaviour to establish a hierarchy before dinner was served?
*In a small group of youg Sals of good health and equal size will there be a hierarchy too? Is there a "health pyramid" to use a great phrase from one of Marc S's Mantella books?
*Have other keepers seen this or similar?
* When I was at University I had to do a psychology experiment in the lab with newly hatched chicks. We measured how often they chirped and how often they pecked another bird. You could plot a graph to show the "pecking order". Is this is a similar phenomenon?
*If there is a pecking order set among evently apparently equally-matched young caudates, are there small species-specific behaviours that set the animals rank? Is the Sal behaviour the equivalent of the chew my neighbours' foot I've seen in my Chinese fire bellies and my Pleurodeles?
*To what extent is this behaviour a priduct of living in a captive space, however generous? I don't know what the wild population density might be for the galliaca - how often might they meet and would they do what I saw when they do?

Fascinated of UK.

sergé
7th October 2003, 10:58
Don't think there is territorial behaviour in juveniles Competition for food however is clearly there. Some animals are quicker, therefor get more food en therefor grow bigger. Whenever you keep a group of juveniles there will be ones that grow quicker. But...also raising them indivually and giving them almost equal food supply some will grow quicker.
Food competition can turn into a feeding frenzy, which is what I think happened. They get all wild because of food and don't know where to look or to bite.
But perhaps someone else has better explinations...

greetings, Sergé

matthew
8th October 2003, 22:13
Thanks for your reply Serge - nice to get one after all that typing!