Action: Amphibians: Manipulate larval density within the enclosure
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- A replicated study in the USA found that reducing larval density of spotted salamanders increased larval survival and body mass.
Some species of amphibian larvae are known to cannibalize other individuals in the enclosure if animal density is too high. It is also thought that growth could be reduced when larvae are too densely housed.
Supporting evidence from individual studies
A replicated study in 2010 of spotted salamanders Ambystoma maculatum in the USA found that housing larvae at low densities resulted in bigger salamanders, higher survival and lower stress levels, similar to larvae in the wild. At different larval densities there were significant differences in body mass (6/tank: 1.8 g; 12/tank: 1.6 g; 30/tank: 0.9 g), survival (94%; 67%; 33% respectively) and stress levels (white blood cell ratios: 0.4; 1.5; 2.2 respectively). At medium larval densities, increased food or habitat complexity had no significant effect on body mass (food: 1.4 g; environment: 1.7 g), survival (89%; 50% respectively), or stress levels (1.3; 0.7 respectively). Egg masses were collected from the wild. Larvae were reared in three replicates of five treatments: starting densities of six, 12 or 30 larvae/1,000 l tank, increased food (12 larvae/tank with triple the zooplankton) or increased habitat complexity (tank filled with sticks and refugia). All tanks had leaf litter on the bottom. Metamorphs were weighed and blood sampled for stress hormone levels.