Amphibian Casanovas beware: the ladies aren't likely to take infidelity lying down. Male salamanders returning home after a night of disloyalty can expect a beating, a new study reveals. The finding has surprised behavioural researchers: most instances of infidelity punishment place females on the receiving end of the abuse. Female red-backed salamanders are no different, but they don't just take it — they dish it out too, finds behavioural ecologist Ethan Prosen of the University of Louisiana in Lafayette, who led the research1.
“This is the only species I know of where the male is intimidating the female and the female returns the favour,” says Prosen. No one is sure how common infidelity is among salamanders. But male red-backed salamanders are known to be aggressive toward female partners that have visited other males. But as males and females of this species are evenly matched in size, Prosen wondered why the females were putting up with this violent treatment.