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Activity and Reproductive Cycles in Northern Populations of the Red-Backed Salamander, Plethodon cinereus

Maria Helena Leclair, Marc Levsseur and Raymond Leclair Jr.
Journal of Herpetology
Vol. 42, No. 1 (Mar., 2008), pp. 31-38
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40060479
Page Count: 8
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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.
Activity and Reproductive Cycles in Northern Populations of the Red-Backed Salamander, Plethodon cinereus
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Abstract

Surface foraging activity of terrestrial urodeles in northern climates is restricted by unfavorable conditions during extended portions of the year. Thus, salamanders should forage intensively during the short active season in order to reach maturity rapidly and gain sufficient energy to ensure an optimized reproductive frequency. We examined whether the Red-Backed Salamander, Plethodon cinereus, conforms to these predictions at the Mastigouche Reserve (Quebec, Canada) near the northern limits of the species' distribution. During one active season (1997), we monitored surface movements in four subpopulations by a system of drift fences and pitfalls, and we analyzed reproductive traits (testis and follicle sizes) in two of these subpopulations. Age of specimens was determined by skeletochronology. Salamanders captured during the first two weeks of October represented 63.6% of a total of 775 salamanders found in pitfalls in the four study sites for the entire sampling period. None or very few were captured in midsummer although July and August recorded the greatest precipitation; less than 7.8% were from late spring/early summer samplings. Sex ratio of juveniles was skewed toward females. Males reach maturity in 3-5 yr and seem to reproduce annually. Females oviposit for the first time at 4-6 yr but, according to follicular growth rate, necessitate another three years to produce a second clutch. However, longevity in these salamanders is only 8-9 yr. Plethodon cinereus at the study site does not meet our predictions of optimized surface activity and reproductive traits; nevertheless, populations maintained high abundance.

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