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Size and Environmental Predictability for Salamanders

Virginia C. Maiorana
Evolution
Vol. 30, No. 3 (Sep., 1976), pp. 599-613
DOI: 10.2307/2407583
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2407583
Page Count: 15
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Size and Environmental Predictability for Salamanders
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Abstract

The life-history and behavior of the plethodontid salamander Batrachoseps attenuatus is interpreted as resulting from adaptation to a marginal environment that is more unpredictable for juvenile than for adult survival. This hypothesis derives from an examination of the life-history adaptations of B. attenuatus from phylogenetic and comparative perspectives, and from a quantification of the predictability and variation of major environmental parameters. It is concluded that adaptation to a variable, xeric environment by plethodontid salamanders with small body size has favored major modifications of the life-history, whereas the same environment has not selected for life-history modification of large species. A relatively high degree of environmental unpredictability is more important to an animal with a small body size. Life-history features of west coast plethodontid species are thought to be important in the competitive displacement of ecologically similar species. In the life-history of B. attenuatus selection seems to have maximized the flexibility of the individual in allocating energy for reproductive and somatic functions. This flexibility involves a combination of what are typically considered r- and K-traits, and may generally be selected by environments that favor both increased longevity and high reproductive output.

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