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Herpetology: the Biology of Tetrapods (BIOEE 470 and 472). • See the Center for North American Herpetology ( http://www.cnah.org ) for undergrad summer internships, free publications, and much more of interest…. Calling male leaf rog ( Phyllomedusa sauvagii ) Photo:H.W.Greene.

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herpetology the biology of tetrapods bioee 470 and 472
Herpetology: the Biology of Tetrapods (BIOEE 470 and 472)

• See the Center for North American Herpetology (http://www.cnah.org) for undergrad summer internships, free publications, and much more of interest…

Calling male leaf rog (Phyllomedusa sauvagii)


Course website: www.eeb.cornell.edu/herpetology/index.html

phylogenetic classification of living salamanders
Phylogenetic classification of living salamanders*…


Sirenidae (2 genera/4 species)



Cryptobranchidae (2/3)

Hynobiidae (9/43)

Salamandroidea* *

Ambystomatidae (1/30)

Amphiuma (1/3)

Dicamptodontidae (1/4)

Plethodontidae (27/360)

Proteiidae (2/6)

Rhyacotriton (1/4)

Salamandridae (15/62)

*salamanders, newts, etc.

* * unresolved polytomy

(Andrias japonicus, Cryptobranchidae, photo:A.Savitzky)

(Pseudoeurycea bellii, Plethodontidae, photo:J.Sigala)

more life history diversity
More life history diversity…

Direct development:

• no aquatic larval stage

• terrestrial eggs

• many plethodontids


• live birth of larvae or young

• with or without maternal nutrition

• only in a few Old World salamandrids

Upper: Fire Salamander (Salamandra salamandra (Salamandridae, photo:H.W.Greene); lower, Alpine Black Salamander (S. atra, photo:M.H.Wake)

innovations in salamander social systems japanese giant salamander den masters
Innovations in salamander social systems: Japanese Giant Salamander “den masters”

• 90 nights of field work, 98 hrs of observations of nest A and 25 hrs of nest B, 103 salamanders were identified individually

• A single extra large den master monopolized each nest, but up to 9 females and 17 other males visited his site

• Females at a site ate the eggs of other females, and small males attempting to intrude on the nest site were sometimes eaten by the den masters

• “All den masters aggressively guarded against attempts by the researchers to collect their eggs…” (T. Kawamichi and H. Ueda, 1998, J. Herpetology 32:133-136)

More innovations in salamander social systems: sexual interference in ambystomatids and plethodontids

• Male Spotted Salamanders (Ambystoma maculatum) place their spermatophores on top of those of other males in dense breeding aggregations

• Some male Jordan’s Salamanders (Plethodon jordani) mimic a following female so that the lead male regards the intervening male as a female, and the intervening male then deposits a spermatophore in front of the real following female

• More on this in an upcoming lecture by Kelly Zamudio

evolutionary innovations and trends in salamander feeding biology
Evolutionary innovations and trends in salamander feeding biology…

• Larval and adult salamanders are carnivores

• suction feeding (all larvae, cryptobranchids, proteiids)

• simple tongue projection (e.g., ambystomatids, most salamandrids)

• go see Steve Deban’s incredible feeding movies (www.autodax.net)—don’t miss them!!

Spotted Salamander (Ambystoma maculatum, Ambystomatidae, photo:H.W.Greene)

specialized tongue projection a few salamandrids many plethodontids
Specialized tongue projection (a few salamandrids, many plethodontids)…

• Facilitated by lunglessness and direct development

• Hyoid apparatus, skeletal elements freed from primitive roles in larval feeding and adult respiration

• Subarcualis rectus and rectus cervicus: what are they?

• Functional morphology: how does the whole system work?

• Note groove along flank of salamander… and really, go to www.autodax.net

Web-toed salamander (Hyrdromantes sp., Plethodontidae, photo:S.Deban)

diversity in the salamandridae old world newts
Diversity in the Salamandridae: Old World Newts

• High diversity (13 genera, ca. 56 species; diverse morphology, ecology, behavior)

• Dramatic seasonal changes in male external morphology

• Diverse, even bizarre antipredator mechanisms (bright colors, skin toxins, spines)

Asian newt (Tylototriton andersoni, photo:A.H.Savitzky)

diversity in the salamandridae new world newts
Diversity in the Salamandridae: New World Newts

• Taricha (3 species) in the West, Notophthalmus (3 species) in the East

• “Hyper complex” life cycle of the Eastern Red-spotted Newt Notopthalmus viridescens

••Aquatic eggs and larvae, terrestrial efts, aquatic adults

••Eft skin toxins, aposematic coloration, mimicry

••Adults, red efts, and mimics in your field guide

• Can you see a parallel to the morphological complexities of the Notopthalmus life cycle with those of Taricha and Old World newts? Which is actually more complex?

salamandrid diversity western north american newts taricha
Salamandrid diversity: western North American newts (Taricha)

• At least 3 species in western North America, sister taxon to Notopthalmus

• Terrestriality, diurnal vulnerability and defense (tarichotoxin)

• Male transformation for breeding season

Rough-skinned Newts (T. granulosa, Salamandridae, photos:H.W.Greene

salamandrid diversity western north american newts taricha11
Salamandrid diversity: western North American newts (Taricha)

•Mass spawning

•Environmental uncertainty and small clutch size

California Newts (Taricha torosa, Salamandridae, top photo:M.K.Colbert, bottom photos:M.F.Benard)

salamandrid diversity european fire salamanders salamandra salamandra
Salamandrid diversity: European Fire Salamanders (Salamandra salamandra)

Males perch like lizards, ambush migrating females…


plethodontid diversity ensatinas ensatina
Plethodontid diversity: ensatinas (Ensatina)

• Terrestrial vulnerability and defense

• Terrestrial courtship and seasonality of activity

• Direct development and parental care

• Escaping environmental uncertainty

Ensatina eschescholtzi (Plethodontidae, photos:H.Greene)

salamander diversity some exceptional plethodontids
Salamander diversity: some exceptional plethodontids…

Arboreal Salamander (Plethodontiade, Aneides lugubris)

• Climbs, jumps and bites

• Terrestrial direct development


salamander diversity another exceptional plethodontid spring salamander gyrinophilus porphyriticus
Salamander diversity, another exceptional plethodontid: Spring Salamander (Gyrinophilus porphyriticus)

• Burrows among rocks and gravel in streams

• Larvae grow quite large before metamorphosis

• Adult weighs ≥20 g (2 pens)!

• Eats dusky salamanders (Desmognathus)

• Locally common!