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Adaptive Coloration and Gene Flow as a Constraint to Local Adaptation in the Streamside Salamander, Ambystoma barbouri

Andrew Storfer, Jonra Cross, Victor Rush and Joseph Caruso
Evolution
Vol. 53, No. 3 (Jun., 1999), pp. 889-898
DOI: 10.2307/2640729
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2640729
Page Count: 10
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Adaptive Coloration and Gene Flow as a Constraint to Local Adaptation in the Streamside Salamander, Ambystoma barbouri
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Abstract

Predation is an important selective force that influences animal color patterns. Some larval populations of the streamside salamander, Ambystoma barbouri, inhabit streams with fish predators. Other larval salamanders are found in shallow, ephemeral streams that are predator-free. Quantitative melanophore cell counts and estimates of percent body area pigmented indicated that larval coloration is strongly correlated with stream type. Larvae that coexist with fish tend to be lighter than larvae from streams that are fishless and ephemeral. Two approaches demonstrated that lightly pigmented salamander larvae better match the common background in relatively permanent streams and are less conspicuous to fish than dark larvae. First, using a model based on the spectral sensitivity of the fish and reflectance properties of salamanders and natural stream backgrounds, we showed that light larvae are three times more cryptic than dark larvae on rocks. Second, lighter larvae had higher survival than darker salamanders on rocks in a predator- choice experiment. It is not clear why larvae in ephemeral streams are darker. Larvae in ephemeral streams should be active to feed and develop rapidly and reach sufficient size to metamorphose before seasonal drying. Several hypotheses may explain why larvae tend to be darker in ephemeral streams, such as increased thermoregulatory ability, better screening of ultraviolet radiation (in these shallower streams), or better background matching to terrestrial predators. Among populations where salamander larvae coexist with fish, there are differences in relative crypsis. Larvae from populations with fish and relatively high gene flow from ephemeral populations (where larvae are dark) tend to be darker (with more melanophores) and more conspicuous to predators than those from more genetically isolated populations, where larvae are lighter and more cryptic. These differences illustrate the role of gene flow as a constraint to adaptive evolution.

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