Ecology of Flatwoods Salamander Larvae in Breeding Ponds in Apalachicola National Forest

Management of the flatwoods salamander (Ambystoma cingulatum), a species in decline throughout its range, is hindered by a lack of information on the habitat requirements of the species. Because Ambystomatids are generally philopatric, preservation of quality natal habitat is important for long-term population health and stability. Conservation of breeding sites in managed landscapes is impeded by insufficient knowledge of the habitat components required for successful larval development. We sampled 10 ponds known to be breeding sites of flatwoods salamanders in the winters of 1992 and 1993 to gather baseline information on the habitat and ecology of the larval amphibian assemblages present. Ornate chorus frog (Pseudacris ornata) larvae were the dominant amphibian in both years and exhibited biomass peaks in late winter. Leopard frog (Rana utricularia) larvae gained dominance in mid-spring as the ponds approached dry-down. Flatwoods salamander larvae were the dominant urodele, and Procambarus leonensis was the most abundant crayfish in both years. Dwarf salamander (Eurycea quadridigitata) larvae were more frequently captured in shallower water than other amphibian larvae. Flatwoods salamander and dwarf salamander larvae were captured in quadrats dominated by linear vegetation types. Ornate chorus frog and leopard frog larvae were captured in a greater range of vegetative growth-forms and in quadrats with a higher proportion of detritus cover than flatwoods salamander and dwarf salamander larvae. Mole salamander {Ambystoma talpoideum) larvae were captured only in detrituscovered quadrats. Dwarf, flatwoods, and mole salamanders metamorphosed in less than 81, 91, and 159 days, respectively. These results suggest sufficient hydroperiod and herbaceous cover are important components of breeding ponds of flatwoods salamanders.

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