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Wetlands

, Volume 39, Issue 4, pp 803–814 | Cite as

Habitat Characteristics in Created Vernal Pools Impact Spotted Salamander Water-Borne Corticosterone Levels

  • Alice R. MillikinEmail author
  • Sarah K. Woodley
  • Drew R. Davis
  • James T. Anderson
General Wetland Science

Abstract

Spotted salamanders (Ambystoma maculatum) require vernal pools for breeding habitat. Limited protection and preservation of vernal pools makes suitable habitat creation important. Differences in corticosterone levels, a hormone associated with growth, development, and stress in amphibians, could indicate population health and habitat quality. Our objective was to determine if habitat characteristics in created vernal pools influence corticosterone levels of spotted salamander larvae. In May and June of 2015 and 2016, we sampled water-borne corticosterone levels of larval spotted salamanders in 34 created vernal pools constructed 1–5 years earlier. Using multiple regression, we determined the best model predicting corticosterone levels included larval total length, pool-water temperature, year sampled, and pool diameter. Pool-water pH, depth, and age; percent cover; and predator presence were not significant predictors. Annual variation in corticosterone levels and habitat characteristics, and positive associations with water temperature and salamander body size highlighted the importance of controlling for external influences. The negative association between pool diameter and corticosterone indicated that larvae in larger pools (up to 12.75-m maximum diameter) were less stressed and potentially healthier. These results indicate that pool diameter contributes to habitat quality and may be important when constructing vernal pools for spotted salamanders.

Keywords

Ambystoma maculatum Caudata Habitat creation Hormones Stress 

Notes

Acknowledgements

This study was completed with approval from West Virginia University Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (15-0409.3), the U.S. Forest Service, and the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (Scientific Collecting Permit 2015.133, 2016.205). We thank J Rouda, J Strickland, M Mabry, A Magyan, A Bucher, and J Millikin for field and lab assistance, and D Brown for statistical advice. This research was funded by the U.S. Forest Service, Natural Resources Conservation Service, National Science Foundation (01A-1458952), West Virginia University Natural History Museum, National Institute of Food and Agriculture McStennis Project WVA00117, The Explorers Club Washington Group, Society of Wetland Scientists, Society of Wetland Scientists South Atlantic Chapter, West Virginia University Stitzel Graduate Enhancement Fund, and R and L Bowman. We also thank West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, Department of Biological Sciences at Duquesne University, and the Ruby Distinguished Doctoral Fellowship Program. This is scientific article number 3355 of the West Virginia Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station, Morgantown.

Supplementary material

13157_2019_1130_MOESM1_ESM.docx (20 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 20.1 kb)
13157_2019_1130_MOESM2_ESM.docx (16 kb)
Fig. S1 Monthly average temperatures separated by sample year based on the 12 months before and including sampling: July 2014 – June 2015 and July 2015 – June 2016. Weather data are from the nearest weather station (Elkins, WV), which is 40.23 km away. Data from The Weather Underground [United States] Elkins-Randolph County Station, WV. (DOCX 15.5 kb)
13157_2019_1130_MOESM3_ESM.docx (16 kb)
Fig. S2 Monthly total precipitation separated by sample year based on the 12 months before and including sampling: July 2014 – June 2015 and July 2015 – June 2016. Weather data are from the nearest weather station (Elkins, WV), which is 40.23 km away. Data from The Weather Underground [United States] Elkins-Randolph County Station, WV. (DOCX 15.5 kb)

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Copyright information

© Society of Wetland Scientists 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Natural ResourcesWest Virginia UniversityMorgantownUSA
  2. 2.Biological SciencesDuquesne UniversityPittsburghUSA
  3. 3.School of Earth, Environmental, and Marine SciencesUniversity of Texas Rio Grande ValleySouth Padre IslandUSA

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