Nav: Home

Salamanders that breed in the fall are less likely to disperse

August 09, 2017

With changing environments, pond-breeding salamanders face increasingly hazardous treks as the space between breeding ponds and their non-breeding habitat widens or is degraded. A study from the University of Missouri suggests that a salamander's success may depend more on when it breeds than on the landscape obstacles it might face. Scientists believe that knowing the patterns in which salamanders move back and forth could lead to better forest management and conservation strategies.

"Salamanders serve as vital links in forest food chains, and their population size and recovery from major disturbances can help predict the health of forest ecosystems," said Jacob Burkhart, a graduate student in the Division of Biological Sciences and lead author of the study. "It's crucial that we have a better understanding of how salamanders move, or disperse, across their landscape as well as what factors encourage or discourage their movement in order to make sound decisions about managing their populations and the forests where they live."

Burkhart and his colleagues, including Lori Eggert, an associate professor in the Division of Biological Sciences in the MU College of Arts and Science, used DNA extracted from tissue samples to estimate the movement patterns of salamanders. DNA allows the researchers to assess genetic relationships and gene flow between populations and individuals and paired those data with geographical measurements to observe how salamanders moved across the landscape.

The researchers studied four species of pond-breeding salamanders at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.; two species breed in the spring and two in the fall. They also measured features of the landscape, including distance between ponds, the amount of tree cover, distance from ravines, and soil wetness.

DNA analysis showed that salamanders that breed in the fall move to new ponds less often than salamanders that breed in the spring. Distance between ponds and various landscape features could not fully explain the observed genetic differences.

"Even though some habitat features seemed to affect dispersal, we found that, for all four species, breeding season was a better predictor than habitat of the observed genetic differences," said Burkhart. "Practically, what this says is that landscape variables are not quite as important as the timing of the breeding season."

For those concerned with managing salamander populations as a means of managing forests, Burkhart said the study serves as a reminder that not all salamander species are alike.

"When using a particular species as a way of managing forests, conservationists should be aware of traits specific to those species, including their breeding seasons." Burkhart said. "When writing a conservation plan or when attempting to apply results from one species to related species, you need to consider the ecology of your target species, including its life history traits, in addition to its interactions with the landscape."
The article, titled "The influence of breeding phenology on the genetic structure of four pond-breeding salamanders," appears in the July issue of the journal Ecology and Evolution. Coauthors of the study include Ray Semlitsch, William Peterman, Emily Brocato, Kim Romine, Brittany Ousterhout, Thomas Anderson, Freya Rowland, Madeline Willis, and Dana Drake. The research was funded by the Department of Defense (Grant Number: RC2155). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the funding agencies.

Editor's Note: For more on the story, please see:

University of Missouri-Columbia

Related Salamanders Articles:

Zoology: Biofluorescence may be widespread among amphibians
Biofluorescence, where organisms emit a fluorescent glow after absorbing light energy, may be widespread in amphibians including salamanders and frogs, according to a study in Scientific Reports.
A salamander named Egoria: Palaeontologists identify new Jurassic amphibian
A group of Russian and German palaeontologists have described a previously unknown genus and species of prehistoric salamanders.
Study shows how salamanders harness limb regeneration to buffer selves from climate change
Clemson University College of Science researchers have shown for the first time that salamanders inhabiting the Southern Appalachian Mountains use temperature rather than humidity as the best cue to anticipate changes in their environment.
Climate change water variability hurts salamander populations
New research from the University of Montana suggests that streamflow variability brought on by climate change will negatively affect the survival of salamanders.
U of G researchers discover meat-eating plant in Ontario, Canada
Pitcher plants growing in wetlands across Canada have long been known to eat creatures -- mostly insects and spiders -- that fall into their bell-shaped leaves and decompose in rainwater collected there.
Salamanders chew with their palate
'According to the textbooks, amphibians swallow their prey whole, but we have been able to refute this,' says Dr.
Researchers discover record-breaking salamander
Researchers at UT have discovered the largest individual of any cave salamander in North America, a 9.3-inch specimen of Berry Cave salamander.
Trout, salamander populations quickly bounce back from severe drought conditions
Populations of coastal cutthroat trout and coastal giant salamanders in the Pacific Northwest show the ability to rebound quickly from drought conditions, buying some time against climate change.
Central Texas salamanders, including newly identified species, at risk of extinction
Biologists at The University of Texas at Austin have discovered three new species of groundwater salamander in Central Texas, including one living west of Austin that they say is critically endangered.
Widely used mosquito repellent proves lethal to larval salamanders
Insect repellents containing picaridin can be lethal to salamanders. So reports a new study published today in Biology Letters that investigated how exposure to two common insect repellents influenced the survival of aquatic salamander and mosquito larvae.
More Salamanders News and Salamanders Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Climate Mindset
In the past few months, human beings have come together to fight a global threat. This hour, TED speakers explore how our response can be the catalyst to fight another global crisis: climate change. Guests include political strategist Tom Rivett-Carnac, diplomat Christiana Figueres, climate justice activist Xiye Bastida, and writer, illustrator, and artist Oliver Jeffers.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Speedy Beet
There are few musical moments more well-worn than the first four notes of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. But in this short, we find out that Beethoven might have made a last-ditch effort to keep his music from ever feeling familiar, to keep pushing his listeners to a kind of psychological limit. Big thanks to our Brooklyn Philharmonic musicians: Deborah Buck and Suzy Perelman on violin, Arash Amini on cello, and Ah Ling Neu on viola. And check out The First Four Notes, Matthew Guerrieri's book on Beethoven's Fifth. Support Radiolab today at