Eastern Hellbenders (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis alleganiensis) are giant, charismatic salamanders of conservation concern. Despite growing interest in their breeding behavior, significant gaps remain in our understanding of hellbender reproduction, particularly the behavior occurring immediately prior to and during breeding because these activities typically occur within the nesting cavity and out of view. In this study, we used custom-built infrared cameras installed underwater in artificial nesting shelters to record prebreeding behaviors, complete mating sequences, and failed mating attempts in 11 shelters. Using these recordings, we describe the basic mating sequence, the presence of potential alternative mating tactics, and two novel behaviors, including possible signal production via wave-based communication and unique egg laying behavior by female hellbenders. These findings add to our understanding of hellbenders’ life history as well as informing conservation efforts in both captive and wild environments.

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