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Factors facilitating co-occurrence at the Range Boundary of Shenandoah and Red-backed Salamanders

February 14, 2020

The transition from species in allopatry to sympatry, i.e., the co-occurrence zone of competing species, allows for investigation of forces structuring range limits and provides evidence of the evolutionary and population responses of competing species, including mechanisms facilitating co-occurrence (e.g., character displacement). The Shenandoah Salamander (Plethodon shenandoah), an endangered plethodontid, is limited to three mountaintops in Shenandoah National Park, Virginia, USA. This species’ distributional limits are attributed to competitive exclusion by the Red-backed Salamander (P. cinereus). Recent work showed range overlap between these species is greater than previously thought, requiring investigation of species morphology, behavior, and demographic measures in single-species and co-occurrence zones that might facilitate such overlap. We analyzed individual characteristics (e.g., life stage, size, color, and microhabitat-use) from two years of transect surveys to see if traits differed within and outside co-occurrence zones. Measures showed species- and zonal-specific differences, but we found limited support for character displacement. Both species were larger when co-occurringin the co-occurrence zone, indicating larger animals might better compete for resources or that symmetric competition restricts dispersal or recruitment processes at the co-occurrence zone. Microhabitat use also differed by species across transects, with Red-backed Salamanders using more rock microhabitats in the co-occurrence zone, potentially due to competition for microclimates that minimize physiological stress. The lack of strong evidence for morphologic, behavioral, or demographic differentiation in situ at the range edge suggests competition may be weaker than previously thought with other factors contributing to the range limits of Shenandoah Salamanders.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2020
Title Factors facilitating co-occurrence at the Range Boundary of Shenandoah and Red-backed Salamanders
DOI 10.1670/18-162
Authors Staci M. Amburgey, David A. W. Miller, Adrianne B. Brand, Andrew E Dietrich, Evan H. Campbell Grant
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Herpetology
Series Number
Index ID 70209478
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Patuxent Wildlife Research Center