Date of Award

1-1-2013

Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Department

Biological Sciences

First Advisor

Timothy A. Mousseau

Abstract

Nest- site selection is a critical process in the life history of amphibians, directly influencing offspring survival and parental fitness. When and where an amphibian chooses to nest is strongly influenced by a range of environmental cues. We monitored plethodontid salamander breeding behavior in seepage wetlands in the South Carolina inner Coastal Plain. Seepage wetlands are ideal for monitoring semiaquatic salamander breeding, because they provide habitat for both larval and adult salamanders while having relatively predictable, constant water temperatures and presence year round. We observed the breeding phenology of three sympatric salamanders (Eurycea cirrigera, Desmognathus auriculatus, and Pseudotriton ruber) in seepage wetlands. We determined that that these three species have temporally partitioned the year into distinct, non-overlapping breeding seasons. We believe that the partitioning of the reproductive season may serve as a mechanism for reducing competition for nest- sites. Further, we evaluated the nest- site selection behavior of the Southern Two-lined salamander, E. cirrigera, in relation to a range of environmental conditions over two spatial scales. E. cirrigera select nest- sites using environmental cues across multiple spatial scales where females actively discriminate among nesting locations based on measures of temperature, hydrology, and additional biotic factors. Because amphibians are so sensitive to environmental change and variation, understanding the factors that influence key life history processes, particularly breeding phenology and oviposition site choice, are critical to the conservation of amphibian populations and their habitats.

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