Zara President Coauthors Paper on Cave and Surface Adapted Salamander
Zara President, Jean Krejca, recently coauthored a paper titled " Life History and demographic Differences Between Cave and Surface Populations of the Western Slimy Salamander, Plethodon Albagula (Caudata: Plethodontidae), in Central Texas." Plethodon albagula is known from both cave and surface environments. Threshold species like Plethodon albagula are excellent candidates to study potential differences in life-history traits during the evolutionary transition from surface into subterranean habitats. A 29-month mark-recapture study of a surface and a cave population in Bell County, Texas, was conducted to determine whether these populations differed in body size, growth rate, age at sexual maturity, and life span. Salamanders were smaller on average and reached a smaller maximum size in the surface population compared to the cave population. Growth trajectories were similar between populations, but the cave population reached sexual maturity faster (0.9–1.4 y) than the surface population (1.5–2.2 y). Survival rates were similar between populations. Although population size estimates were 10 times higher for the surface compared to the cave population, densities were similar between sites suggesting that habitat availability alone could explain population size differences. Plethodon albagula exhibits plasticity in growth, body size, and development, which may be adaptive and a function of extreme variation in surface environmental conditions. Subterranean habitats may be important for the long-term persistence of local populations, which may persist for years in subterranean habitats. The paper was coauthored with colleagues from the Illinois Natural History Survey and was published in the August 2015 issue of the Herpetological Conservation and Biology Journal. The full paper can be found here.