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Life history of a small form of the plethodontid salamander Desmognathus quadramaculatus

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We sampled Desmognathus quadramaculatus, one of the largest species of plethodontid salamanders in eastern North America, from a population exhibiting extremely small adult body sizes in the Bald Mountains of North Carolina (USA). In order to test the hypothesis that miniaturization in desmognathine salamanders is due to early metamorphosis and maturation, we estimated ages and sizes at metamorphosis and maturation. Analysis of size-frequency distributions suggests that most larvae metamorphose after 24 months, with the remainder metamorphosing after 36. The minimum age of sexually mature individuals in the summer months is estimated to be 4 years in males and 5 years in females; some may mature 1 year earlier. This is earlier than other reliable estimates of age at maturation in D. quadramaculatus, and appears to account for the small size of the species at this locality. Larval and juvenile growth rates are within the range of growth rates of other populations. As in other populations of D. quadramaculatus, males are smaller than females at maturation, but grow to larger sizes. Estimates of clutch sizes based on dissection of gravid females are relatively low. The other species of salamanders in this community do not appear to be miniaturized.


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