Sebastiano Salvidio, Andrea Costa, Antonio Romano


Clay models are realistic replicas of live animals that are frequently used in ecological and ethological field studies. These kind of models, usually made from plasticine, are malleable, easy to shape, colour and relative inexpensive. In addition, plasticine models retain marks on their surface allowing the identification of the predator and of the body part of the prey that was attacked. In this short review we retrieved and analysed a preliminary list of studies published until December 2017, that used clay replicas of amphibians in ecological field studies. Overall 25 publications were analysed. The first scientific paper using amphibian clay models was published in 1994, but only after the year 2005 the use of clay replicas became frequent in herpetological field researches. The majority of studies were performed in tropical or subtropical ecosystems of Central and South America, and only a relative small number of studies were executed in temperate forests of North America and Europe. The most studied family was Dendrobatidae with nine species. In Urodela the Plethodontidae, with four species, was the most studied family. After the analysis of the main features concerning technical aspects, geographic distribution and temporal trend of these kind of studies, the pros and cons of the use of amphibian clay models are synthetically discussed.


aposematism, colour polymorphism, crypsis, plasticine, predation

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