Life history and population characteristics of the salamander Plethodon kentucki with a review of Plethodon life histories

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To determine life history and population characteristics of the Cumberland Plateau woodland salamander (Plethodon kentucki), I conducted a three-yr mark-recapture study on two 225-m2 plots in southeastern Kentucky. I also observed egg clutches deposited by three captive females in the field and laboratory. Individual females reproduced biennially or less frequently; males bred annually. Mean clutch size was 10, and eggs were deposited in July and batched during October. Hatchlings were 14 to 15 mm snout-vent length (SVL), and average growth was ca. 15, 10 and 6 mm SVL during the 1st, 2nd and 3rd yr of life aboveground. Thereafter growth continued to decline steadily with increasing body size. Growth rate of 2-yr-old juveniles varied significantly among years. Males reached sexual maturity at ca. 48 mm SVL (3- 4 yr after hatching). Females began depositing eggs at about 52 mm SVL (probably 4-5 yr after hatching). Mean SVL for adult females (56.6 mm) was significantly greater than for adult males (54.1 mm). Jolly-Seber estimates of annual adult survival rate ranged from 0.72 to 0.91 Recapture rates among years showed that 2- and 3-yr-old juveniles had an annual survival rate of at least 0.48 and 0.68, respectively. Some micro-habitats supported significantly higher population densities than others, and densities varied little from year to year. Overall adult sex ratios were around 1:1 or significantly biased toward females, whereas the ratio of males to gravid females was significantly biased toward males in some years. Variation in life history and population characteristics between localities and years demonstrates the necessity of long-term studies on different populations when describing salamander life histories.

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American Midland Naturalist

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