Project description:The extent to which closely related species share similar niches remains highly debated. Ecological niches are increasingly analysed by combining distribution records with broad-scale climatic variables, but interactions between species and their environment often occur at fine scales. The idea that macroscale analyses correctly represent fine-scale processes relies on the assumption that average climatic variables are meaningful predictors of processes determining species persistence, but tests of this hypothesis are scarce. We compared broad- and fine-scale (microhabitat) approaches by analyzing the niches of European plethodontid salamanders. Both the microhabitat and the macroecological approaches identified niche differences among species, but the correspondence between micro- and macroecological niches was weak. When exploring niche evolution, the macroecological approach suggested a close relationship between niche and phylogenetic history, but this relationship did not emerge in fine-scale analyses. The apparent pattern of niche evolution emerging in broad-scale analyses likely was the by-product of related species having closely adjacent ranges. The environment actually experienced by most of animals is more heterogeneous than what is apparent from macro-scale predictors, and a better combination between macroecological and fine-grained data may be a key to obtain robust ecological generalizations.
Project description:Although polyploidy is considered a ubiquitous process in plants, the establishment of new polyploid species may be hindered by ecological competition with parental diploid taxa. In such cases, the adaptive processes that result in the ecological divergence of diploids and polyploids can lead to their co-existence. In contrast, non-adaptive processes can lead to the co-existence of diploids and polyploids or to differentiated distributions, particularly when the minority cytotype disadvantage effect comes into play. Although large-scale studies of cytotype distributions have been widely conducted, the segregation of sympatric cytotypes on fine scales has been poorly studied. We analysed the spatial distribution and ecological requirements of the tetraploid Centaurea seridis and the diploid Centaurea aspera in east Spain on a large scale, and also microspatially in contact zones where both species hybridise and give rise to sterile triploid hybrids. On the fine scale, the position of each Centaurea individual was recorded along with soil parameters, accompanying species cover and plant richness. On the east Spanish coast, a slight latitudinal gradient was found. Tetraploid C. seridis individuals were located northerly and diploid C. aspera individuals southerly. Tetraploids were found only in the habitats with strong anthropogenic disturbance. In disturbed locations with well-developed semi-fixed or fixed dunes, diploids and tetraploids could co-exist and hybridise. However, on a fine scale, although taxa were spatially segregated in contact zones, they were not ecologically differentiated. This finding suggests the existence of non-adaptive processes that have led to their co-existence. Triploid hybrids were closer to diploid allogamous mothers (C. aspera) than to tetraploid autogamous fathers (C. seridis). This may result in a better ability to compete for space in the tetraploid minor cytotype, which might facilitate its long-term persistence.
Project description:Plethodontid salamanders are diverse and widely distributed taxa and play critical roles in ecosystem processes. Due to salamander use of structurally complex habitats, and because only a portion of a population is available for sampling, evaluation of sampling designs and estimators is critical to provide strong inference about Plethodontid ecology and responses to conservation and management activities. We conducted a simulation study to evaluate the effectiveness of multi-scale and hierarchical single-scale occupancy models in the context of a Before-After Control-Impact (BACI) experimental design with multiple levels of sampling. Also, we fit the hierarchical single-scale model to empirical data collected for Oregon slender and Ensatina salamanders across two years on 66 forest stands in the Cascade Range, Oregon, USA. All models were fit within a Bayesian framework. Estimator precision in both models improved with increasing numbers of primary and secondary sampling units, underscoring the potential gains accrued when adding secondary sampling units. Both models showed evidence of estimator bias at low detection probabilities and low sample sizes; this problem was particularly acute for the multi-scale model. Our results suggested that sufficient sample sizes at both the primary and secondary sampling levels could ameliorate this issue. Empirical data indicated Oregon slender salamander occupancy was associated strongly with the amount of coarse woody debris (posterior mean = 0.74; SD = 0.24); Ensatina occupancy was not associated with amount of coarse woody debris (posterior mean = -0.01; SD = 0.29). Our simulation results indicate that either model is suitable for use in an experimental study of Plethodontid salamanders provided that sample sizes are sufficiently large. However, hierarchical single-scale and multi-scale models describe different processes and estimate different parameters. As a result, we recommend careful consideration of study questions and objectives prior to sampling data and fitting models.
Project description:The use of behavior to buffer extreme environmental variation is expected to enable species to (a) extend the breadth of environments they inhabit beyond that predicted from climatic data and (b) diminish the negative effects of broad scale and chronic disturbances such as climate change. The term Bogert effect refers to behavioral compensation entailing microhabitat selection to maintain performance across a gradient of environmental conditions resulting in evolutionary inertia of physiological traits. Here, we compare microhabitats used by plethodontid salamanders distributed along an elevational gradient to determine whether there is behavioral compensation that buffers them from deleterious temperatures and moisture levels. Overall, salamanders preferred cooler and more mesic environments and occupied microhabitats that maintained constant moisture conditions at both high- and low-elevation sites. Our results suggest that salamanders use microhabitats to regulate temperature and moisture levels, which is consistent with the Bogert effect. Maintenance of more moist conditions may help buffer these species from rising temperatures but only in suitable high-elevation environments that are likely to disappear over the next century. We conclude that behavioral regulation of temperature and moisture is a potential mechanism for the Bogert effect in plethodontid salamanders.
Project description:Environmental gradients are instrumental in shaping the distribution and local abundance of species because at the most fundamental level, an organism's performance is constrained by the environment it inhabits. In topographically complex landscapes, slope, aspect, and vegetative cover interact to affect solar exposure, creating temperature-moisture gradients and unique microclimates. The significance of the interaction of abiotic gradients and biotic factors such as competition, movement, or physiology has long been recognized, but the scale at which these factors vary on the landscape has generally precluded their inclusion in spatial abundance models. We used fine-scale spatial data relating to surface-soil moisture, temperature, and canopy cover to describe the spatial distribution of abundance of a terrestrial salamander, Plethodon albagula, across the landscape. Abundance was greatest in dense-canopy ravine habitats with high moisture and low solar exposure, resulting in a patchy distribution of abundance. We hypothesize that these patterns reflect the physiological constraints of Plethodontid salamanders. Furthermore, demographic cohorts were not uniformly distributed among occupied plots on the landscape. The probability of gravid female occurrence was nearly uniform among occupied plots, but juveniles were much more likely to occur on plots with lower surface temperatures. The disconnect between reproductive effort and recruitment suggests that survival differs across the landscape and that local population dynamics vary spatially. Our study demonstrates a connection between abundance, fine-scale environmental gradients, and population dynamics, providing a foundation for future research concerning movement, population connectivity, and physiology.
Project description:Woodland salamanders are among the most abundant vertebrate animals in temperate deciduous forests of eastern North America. Because of their abundance, woodland salamanders are responsible for the transformation of nutrients and translocation of energy between highly disparate levels of trophic organization: detrital food webs and high-order predators. However, the spatial extent of woodland salamanders' role in the ecosystem is likely contingent upon the distribution of their biomass throughout the forest. We sought to determine if natural environmental gradients influence the fine-scale distribution and density of Southern Ravine Salamanders (Plethodon richmondi) and Cumberland Plateau Salamanders (P. kentucki). We addressed this objective by constructing occupancy, co-occurrence, and abundance models from temporally replicated surveys within an old-growth forest in the Cumberland Plateau region of Kentucky. We found that Plethodon richmondi had a more restricted fine-scale distribution than P. kentucki (mean occupancy probability [ ψ¯^ ] = 0.737) and exhibited variable density, from <250 to >1000 individuals per hectare, associated with increased soil moisture and reduced solar exposure due to slope face. While more ubiquitously distributed ( ψ¯^ = 0.95), P. kentucki density varied from <400 to >1,000 individuals per hectare and was inversely related to increased solar exposure from canopy disturbance and landscape convexity. Our data suggest co-occurrence patterns of P. richmondi and P. kentucki are influenced primarily by abiotic conditions within the forest, and that populations likely occur independently and without evidence of biotic interaction. Given the critical role that woodland salamanders play in the maintenance of forest health, regions that support large populations of woodland salamanders, such as those highlighted in this study-mesic forest stands on north-to-east facing slopes with dense canopy and abundant natural cover, may provide enhanced ecosystem services and support the stability of the total forest.
Project description:The availability of data on the feeding habits of species of conservation value may be of great importance to develop analyses for both scientific and management purposes. Stomach flushing is a harmless technique that allowed us to collect extensive data on the feeding habits of six Hydromantes species. Here, we present two datasets originating from a three-year study performed in multiple seasons (spring and autumn) on 19 different populations of cave salamanders. The first dataset contains data of the stomach content of 1,250 salamanders, where 6,010 items were recognized; the second one reports the size of the intact prey items found in the stomachs. These datasets integrate considerably data already available on the diet of the European plethodontid salamanders, being also of potential use for large scale meta-analyses on amphibian diet.
Project description:Nearly two thirds of the approximately 700 species of living salamanders are lungless. These species respire entirely through the skin and buccopharyngeal mucosa. Lung loss dramatically impacts the configuration of the circulatory system but the effects of evolutionary lung loss on cardiac morphology have long been controversial. For example, there is presumably little need for an atrial septum in lungless salamanders due to the absence of pulmonary veins and the presence of a single source of mixed blood flowing into the heart, but whether lungless salamanders possess an atrial septum and whether the sinoatrial aperture is located in the left or right atrium are unresolved; authors have stated opposing claims since the late 1800s. Here, we use micro-computed tomography (?-CT) imaging, gross dissection and histological reconstruction to compare cardiac morphology among lungless plethodontid salamanders (Plethodontidae), salamanders with lungs, and the convergently lungless species Onychodactylus japonicus (Hynobiidae). Plethodontid salamanders have partial atrial septa and incomplete separation of the atrium into left and right halves. Partial septation is also seen in O. japonicus. Hence, lungless salamanders from two lineages convergently evolved similar morphology of the atrial septum. The partial septum in lungless salamanders can make it appear that the sinoatrial aperture is in the left atrium, but this interpretation is incorrect. Outgroup comparisons demonstrate that the aperture is located in a posterodorsal extension of the right atrium into the left side of the heart. Independent evolutionary losses of the atrial septum may have a similar developmental basis. In mammals, the lungs induce formation of the atrial septum by secreting morphogens to neighboring mesenchyme. We hypothesize that the lungs induce atrial septum development in amphibians in a similar fashion to mammals, and that atrial septum reduction in lungless salamanders is a direct result of lunglessness.
Project description:Males of the advanced salamanders (Salamandroidea) attain internal fertilization without a copulatory organ by depositing a spermatophore on the substrate in the environment, which females subsequently take up with their cloaca. The aquatically reproducing modern Eurasian newts (Salamandridae) have taken this to extremes, because most species do not display close physical contact during courtship, but instead largely rely on females following the male track at spermatophore deposition. Although pheromones have been widely assumed to represent an important aspect of male courtship, molecules able to induce the female following behaviour that is the prelude for successful insemination have not yet been identified. Here, we show that uncleaved sodefrin precursor-like factor (SPF) protein pheromones are sufficient to elicit such behaviour in female palmate newts (Lissotriton helveticus). Combined transcriptomic and proteomic evidence shows that males simultaneously tail-fan multiple ca 20 kDa glycosylated SPF proteins during courtship. Notably, molecular dating estimates show that the diversification of these proteins already started in the late Palaeozoic, about 300 million years ago. Our study thus not only extends the use of uncleaved SPF proteins outside terrestrially reproducing plethodontid salamanders, but also reveals one of the oldest vertebrate pheromone systems.
Project description:Numerous physiological and morphological adaptations were achieved during the transition to lungless respiration that accompanied evolutionary lung loss in plethodontid salamanders, including those that enable efficient gas exchange across extrapulmonary tissue. However, the molecular basis of these adaptations is unknown. Here, we show that lungless salamanders express in the larval integument and the adult buccopharynx-principal sites of respiratory gas exchange in these species-a novel paralogue of the gene surfactant-associated protein C (SFTPC), which is a critical component of pulmonary surfactant expressed exclusively in the lung in other vertebrates. The paralogous gene appears to be found only in salamanders, but, similar to SFTPC, in lunged salamanders it is expressed only in the lung. This heterotopic gene expression, combined with predictions from structural modelling and respiratory tissue ultrastructure, suggests that lungless salamanders may produce pulmonary surfactant-like secretions outside the lungs and that the novel paralogue of SFTPC might facilitate extrapulmonary respiration in the absence of lungs. Heterotopic expression of the SFTPC paralogue may have contributed to the remarkable evolutionary radiation of lungless salamanders, which account for more than two thirds of urodele species alive today.