Consistency in trophic strategies between populations of the Sardinian endemic salamander Speleomantes imperialis
The study of trophic ecology of terrestrial salamanders is central for a better understanding of their adaptability and dispersal, in particular in Mediterranean ecosystems where their feeding activity is reduced because of prolonged arid periods. Terrestrial salamanders are generalist predators that feed on a large array of invertebrate prey groups, however, there are few studies comparing the feeding strategy and the trophic specialization at the individual level in conspecific populations of salamanders living in different habitats. In this study, two populations of the Sardinian endemic salamander Speleomantes imperialis were sampled in areas characterized by different climate, vegetation and geological substrate. Dietary habits, obtained by stomach flushing, and physiological condition, assessed through a body condition index, were analysed and compared between populations. The two populations displayed different diets on the basis of the taxonomic composition of prey categories, but both of them behaved as generalist predators and shared a similar body condition index. Moreover, in both populations the indices of individual trophic specialization were significantly different from null models assuming a random prey distribution among predators. Therefore, the two populations were largely composed by individually specialized salamanders. Overall, these findings are in good agreement with other studies on the trophic ecology of top predators and in particular of terrestrial salamanders. The realized trophic strategies, i.e. generalist at the population and specialist at the individual level, were highly consistent geographically and the two populations exploited the different arrays of prey found in their environments similarly.
realized trophic strategies, i.e. generalist at the population and specialist at the individual level, were