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1 March 2010 Vagility of Aquatic Salamanders: Implications for Wetland Connectivity
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Research on landscape connectivity for amphibians that use isolated wetlands has focused on terrestrial and semiterrestrial species. Although aquatic species are commonly encountered in isolated wetlands, their dispersal capability and mode of dispersal has yet to be conclusively determined. For these salamander species, temporary waterways formed during heavy rains may provide transient dispersal opportunities among otherwise terrestrially isolated wetland patches and large contiguous sources (e.g., river swamps, lake systems). We assessed the vagility of two aquatic salamanders, the Greater Siren (Siren lacertina) and Two-Toed Amphiuma (Amphiuma means), under three simulated environmental conditions: terrestrial (damp but no standing water); shallow standing water (1 cm of water); and complete submergence (approximately 5 cm of water). Salamanders were placed inside a modified Living Stream container and stimulated into moving through each treatment. Both species demonstrated a trend toward exhaustion for all treatments and failed to move more than 8 m in the terrestrial or shallow water treatments. As expected, animals in the fully submerged treatment were able to disperse the farthest. Physical characteristics of salamanders did not affect vagility. To disperse, these species likely rely on the formation of aquatic corridors during flooding events. Therefore, successful dispersal among isolated wetlands depends on the ability of the surrounding landscape either to be periodically inundated with water or to form temporary waterways during heavy rains. Human activities that alter flooding events and watershed connectivity, such as flood control regimes and roads, may have important implications for wetland connectivity and, thus, metapopulation viability of aquatic salamanders.

Christopher M. Schalk and Thomas M. Luhring "Vagility of Aquatic Salamanders: Implications for Wetland Connectivity," Journal of Herpetology 44(1), 104-109, (1 March 2010).
Accepted: 1 May 2009; Published: 1 March 2010

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