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Morphological differentiation between the larval forms of two cryptic species of dusky salamander (Desmognathus)

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Desmognathus quadramaculatus and D. folkertsi are cryptic salamander species that occur sympatrically across the entire range of the latter species. However, the larval form of D. folkertsi has never been formally described, and studies of salamander larval communities within its range require the ability to distinguish it from its cryptic relative. We conducted morphometric analyses in order to compare the larval forms of these two species living in allopatry and searched for characters that may be useful in distinguishing them in the field. Larvae of D. quadramaculatus had a larger average body size than D. folkertsi, and larger specimens of the former species had redder tail fins. MANCOVA indicated significant differences in a suite of 22 morphological characters between the two species. Additional principal component analysis (PCA) and discriminant function analysis (DFA) indicated strong separation of factor and discriminant scores, respectively. Besides body size and tail-fin color, the best potential field character appears to be the forelimb length (FLL)/snout-vent length (SVL) ratio with larvae of D. quadramaculatus having a ratio above 0.2 and those of D. folkertsi having a lower ratio. However, these differences need to be confirmed in sympatry before they can be completely relied upon as useful field characters.

Affiliations: 1: 1Piedmont College Department of Biology Demorest, GA, USA; 2: 2The University of Findlay Department of Biology Findlay, OH 45840, USA


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