Lungless salamanders in the family Plethodontidae are widely distributed and the most diverse lineage of caudates. Plethodontids occupy forested and freshwater habitats, where they can achieve remarkable abundance and biomass. The majority of tropical plethodontids are arboreal. Though generally considered ground dwelling, a large proportion of temperate species have been observed climbing shrubs, trees, and herbaceous vegetation. Approximately 45% of terrestrial and semi-aquatic (not including permanently aquatic) plethodontid species are known to obligately or facultatively climb vegetation; yet, with the exception of tropical plethodontids, the importance of arboreal habits is generally underappreciated. The potential benefits of arboreality vary based on life history and geography but may include improved olfaction, increased foraging potential, shelter and nesting, and predator avoidance. Constraints on arboreality include increased water loss rates and morphological limitations. Recognition of arboreal habits as a relevant component of salamander ecology is important in rapidly changing landscapes with anthropogenic alterations to midstory and canopy communities.
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Vol. 104 • No. 1