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The Origin of the Lungless Salamanders (Amphibia: Plethodontidae)

John A. Ruben and Arthur J. Boucot
The American Naturalist
Vol. 134, No. 2 (Aug., 1989), pp. 161-169
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2462096
Page Count: 9
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The Origin of the Lungless Salamanders (Amphibia: Plethodontidae)
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Abstract

It has been generally accepted that lunglessness in plethodontid salamanders results from a selection for increased ballast in aquatic, Late Cretaceous ancestors that inhabited fast-moving, cool Appalachian mountain brooks. However, late Mesozoic mountain-stream environments consistent with that scenario were probably absent from the region: geological evidence indicates that late Mesozoic Appalachia was a chronically warm, low-elevation, non-montane region with little relief and topography. An alternative hypothesis for the origin of plethodontid salamanders is considered. We suggest that proto-plethodontids may have been only semi-aquatic or terrestrial. Supporting evidence includes a plethodontid-like reliance on cutaneous respiration in certain extant ambystomatid salamanders.

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