Date

2019 12:00 AM

Major

Animal Ecology

Department

Ecology, Evolutionary, and Organismal Biology

College

Agriculture and Life Sciences

Project Advisor

Dean Adams

Description

The majority of the 700 extant salamander species inhabit moist environments, such as under rocks, logs, and in leaf litter on the forest floor, or in aquatic habitats. Yet surprisingly, nearly 100 species have adopted an arboreal lifestyle. Life in trees can be ecologically challenging due to increased oxygen demands, mechanics of climbing, and the more variable temperature and humidity found in the canopy compared to on or under the forest floor. These difficulties are particularly salient for salamanders of the family Plethodontidae, as they lack lungs and are completely dependent upon cutaneous respiration. Yet, we have found that plethodontids have transitioned from terrestrial life to arboreal life in at least six independent lineages. Although morphology has responded to these changes in microhabitat, a distinct arboreal phenotype does not exist as it does in other vertebrate lineages It must be so that other influences are in play to explain the unequal distribution of diversity across North, Central, and South America, especially in the tropics. We suggest that climate may facilitate large clade dispersal and may explain some of the variation in terms of microhabitat use. We use ecological niche modeling to investigate specifically (1) if arboreal species live in different climatic niches compared to terrestrial species and (2) if these climatic variables sufficiently explain the distribution of arboreality across North America informing our larger question of how climate shapes microhabitat use in Plethodontid salamanders.

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Jan 1st, 12:00 AM

Assessing environmental variables across Plethodontid salamanders

The majority of the 700 extant salamander species inhabit moist environments, such as under rocks, logs, and in leaf litter on the forest floor, or in aquatic habitats. Yet surprisingly, nearly 100 species have adopted an arboreal lifestyle. Life in trees can be ecologically challenging due to increased oxygen demands, mechanics of climbing, and the more variable temperature and humidity found in the canopy compared to on or under the forest floor. These difficulties are particularly salient for salamanders of the family Plethodontidae, as they lack lungs and are completely dependent upon cutaneous respiration. Yet, we have found that plethodontids have transitioned from terrestrial life to arboreal life in at least six independent lineages. Although morphology has responded to these changes in microhabitat, a distinct arboreal phenotype does not exist as it does in other vertebrate lineages It must be so that other influences are in play to explain the unequal distribution of diversity across North, Central, and South America, especially in the tropics. We suggest that climate may facilitate large clade dispersal and may explain some of the variation in terms of microhabitat use. We use ecological niche modeling to investigate specifically (1) if arboreal species live in different climatic niches compared to terrestrial species and (2) if these climatic variables sufficiently explain the distribution of arboreality across North America informing our larger question of how climate shapes microhabitat use in Plethodontid salamanders.