We evaluated age structure in three species of desmognathine salamanders at Coweeta Hydrologic Laboratory, North Carolina, for comparison with the results of an earlier study of age structure in these species at a nearby locality (Wolf Creek, North Carolina). At Coweeta, both Desmognathus quadramaculatus and D. monticola attain larger adult body sizes and greater ages than their Wolf Creek counterparts. The differences appear to stem in part from greater ages at sexual maturation in both species at Coweeta versus Wolf Creek. This disparity is most pronounced in D. quadramaculatus, where the estimated ages at first reproduction are 7–8 yr in males and 9–10 yr in females. The Coweeta populations of D. quadramaculatus and D. monticola may also have higher survivorship and higher rates of post-maturational growth than those at Wolf Creek. In contrast, in the third and smallest species, D. ocoee, the Coweeta population did not differ in size and age attributes from that at Wolf Creek. We hypothesize that the more mesic climate of Coweeta versus Wolf Creek is a safer environment for the two larger, aquatic to semi-aquatic desmognathines, eliciting selection for later maturation and thus larger body sizes. In contrast, selection on the life history of the smaller and more terrestrial D. ocoee at both localities may derive mainly from factors other than the climatic differential.
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Vol. 58 • No. 2