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Providing evidence to improve practice

Action: Amphibians: Manipulate larval density within the enclosure Management of Captive Animals

Key messages

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  • A replicated study in the USA found that reducing larval density of spotted salamanders increased larval survival and body mass.

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.

Referenced papers

Please cite as:

Jonas, C.S., Timbrell, L.L., Young, F., Petrovan, S.O., Bowkett, A.E. & Smith, R.K. (2019) Management of Captive Animals. Pages 539-567 in: W.J. Sutherland, L.V. Dicks, N. Ockendon, S.O. Petrovan & R.K. Smith (eds) What Works in Conservation 2019. Open Book Publishers, Cambridge, UK.