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Do cave salamanders occur randomly in cavities? An analysis with Hydromantes strinatii

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Underground environments are increasingly recognised as important habitats for the distribution of certain amphibians. However, very few analyses tested whether amphibians occur randomly in underground environments, or they select cavities with specific environmental features. We assessed the distribution of the cave salamander Hydromantes (Speleomantes) strinatii in an area of NW Italy during summer, and analysed relationships between salamander distribution and multiple cave features, considering parameters describing both the biotic and the abiotic environment. Using visual encounter surveys, species’ detection probability was high, indicating that this technique provides reliable information on distribution. Salamanders were associated to caves with cold and humid microclimate, presence of wet walls, and hosting large numbers of Meta spiders. The association with less luminous caves was close to significance. Distribution data were not affected by spatial autocorrelation, suggesting that cave features are more important than the proximity to other occupied caves in determining the pattern of occupancy. Caves are heterogeneous environments: cave salamanders are strongly related to the features of underground environments. Food availability and abiotic features are major determinants of suitability for cave salamanders. Inter-correlation among biotic and abiotic cave features makes it complex identifying the role of factors determining species distribution, but quantitative analyses and PCA help to unravel the cave habitat requirements for amphibians.

Affiliations: 1: 1Dipartimento di Scienze dell’Ambiente e del Territorio, Università di Milano-Bicocca, Piazza della Scienza 1, I-20126 Milano, Italy; 2: 2Dipartimento di Biologia, Università degli Studi di Milano, Via Celoria 26, 2133 Milano, Italy

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2012-01-02
2016-12-07

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