Life history plasticity does not confer resilience to environmental change in the mole salamander (Ambystoma talpoideum)

Courtney L. Davis, David Andrew Miller, Susan C. Walls, William J. Barichivich, Jeffrey Riley, Mary E. Brown

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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Abstract

Plasticity in life history strategies can be advantageous for species that occupy spatially or temporally variable environments. We examined how phenotypic plasticity influences responses of the mole salamander, Ambystoma talpoideum, to disturbance events at the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge (SMNWR), FL, USA from 2009 to 2014. We observed periods of extensive drought early in the study, in contrast to high rainfall and expansive flooding events in later years. Flooding facilitated colonization of predatory fishes to isolated wetlands across the refuge. We employed multistate occupancy models to determine how this natural experiment influenced the occurrence of aquatic larvae and paedomorphic adults and what implications this may have for the population. We found that, in terms of occurrence, responses to environmental variation differed between larvae and paedomorphs, but plasticity (i.e. the ability to metamorphose rather than remain in aquatic environment) was not sufficient to buffer populations from declining as a result of environmental perturbations. Drought and fish presence negatively influenced occurrence dynamics of larval and paedomorphic mole salamanders and, consequently, contributed to observed short-term declines of this species. Overall occurrence of larval salamanders decreased from 0.611 in 2009 to 0.075 in 2014 and paedomorph occurrence decreased from 0.311 in 2009 to 0.121 in 2014. Although variation in selection pressures has likely maintained this polyphenism previously, our results suggest that continued changes in environmental variability and the persistence of fish in isolated wetlands could lead to a loss of paedomorphosis in the SMNWR population and, ultimately, impact regional persistence in the future.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)739-749
Number of pages11
JournalOecologia
Volume183
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 1 2017

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refuge
plasticity
environmental change
life history
conservation areas
wetlands
persistence
fish
flooding
drought
wetland
pedomorphosis
larva
larvae
phenotypic plasticity
aquatic environment
metamorphosis
salamanders and newts
colonization
buffers

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

Cite this

Davis, Courtney L. ; Miller, David Andrew ; Walls, Susan C. ; Barichivich, William J. ; Riley, Jeffrey ; Brown, Mary E. / Life history plasticity does not confer resilience to environmental change in the mole salamander (Ambystoma talpoideum). In: Oecologia. 2017 ; Vol. 183, No. 3. pp. 739-749.
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Life history plasticity does not confer resilience to environmental change in the mole salamander (Ambystoma talpoideum). / Davis, Courtney L.; Miller, David Andrew; Walls, Susan C.; Barichivich, William J.; Riley, Jeffrey; Brown, Mary E.

In: Oecologia, Vol. 183, No. 3, 01.03.2017, p. 739-749.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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