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6 March 2019 Life-Stage Differences in Microhabitat Use by Hellbenders (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis)
Jeronimo G. Da Silva Neto, William B. Sutton, Michael J. Freake
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Abstract

Hellbenders (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis) are long-lived, fully aquatic salamanders that inhabit cool, well-oxygenated streams and rivers in the eastern United States. Although once abundant, C. alleganiensis populations have experienced major declines across the historical range. Habitat degradation, siltation, aquatic contaminants, and infectious diseases are commonly suggested as contributors to these declines. Although Tennessee provides areas of high-quality habitat for C. alleganiensis, microhabitat differences among life stages are not well documented. We evaluated microhabitat use of larval, subadult, and adult C. alleganiensis at three streams in east Tennessee by comparing sites occupied by C. alleganiensis to random sites within each stream. We used multivariate analysis to evaluate microhabitat use differences among larval, subadult, and adult C. alleganiensis. We completed habitat assessments for 60 individuals. We detected an association between C. alleganiensis presence (regardless of life stage) and the percentage of large rock, the percentage of low embedded rocks, and the number of rocks above 500 mm. Furthermore, the volume of cover rock, the number of rocks above 500 mm, the distance to bank, and the percentage of low embedded rocks, gravel, and sand were the most important microhabitat attributes to discriminate life-stage distributions. Overall, our analyses identify microhabitat attributes that are potentially important for long-term C. alleganiensis conservation and provide guidance for stream protection and restoration practices that might mitigate sedimentation and habitat degradation in impacted streams.

© 2019 by The Herpetologists' League, Inc.
Jeronimo G. Da Silva Neto, William B. Sutton, and Michael J. Freake "Life-Stage Differences in Microhabitat Use by Hellbenders (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis)," Herpetologica 75(1), 21-29, (6 March 2019). https://doi.org/10.1655/D-17-00072
Accepted: 17 September 2018; Published: 6 March 2019
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