Identifying the cues used by spotted salamanders (Ambystoma maculatum) to select forested habitat may provide insight into their habitat requirements and preferences. Environmental factors, such as temperature and moisture, are consistently important factors in explaining the magnitude and timing of annual breeding migrations and are important characteristics of quality terrestrial habitat. These factors, however, may not be used to select terrestrial habitat because microclimate gradients are minimal when salamanders are migrating. To test whether substrates provide cues for habitat selection, we presented juvenile and adult spotted salamanders with a choice between substrates collected from forest or grassland. Further, we presented adults with a choice between litter and a combination of soil and litter collected from forest or grassland. We recorded substrate selection initially and at 3-min intervals for 60 min. Salamanders tended to select the forest substrate more than the grassland substrate in all 4 experiments. Overall, juveniles (88%) selected forest soil more than adults (70%). Adults initially selected forest soil (80%), but the response declined with time. However, when we presented soil and litter in combination, salamanders hid under the litter, and the selection of forest substrate (70%) did not decline with time. The establishment of cues influencing habitat selection provides mechanistic information that may be used to predict habitat selection under scenarios of anthropogenic habitat alteration. Our results suggest that substrate characteristics may influence the presence of salamanders within various habitat types.
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Vol. 68 • No. 4