Cross-Life Stage Effects of Aquatic Larval Density and Terrestrial Moisture on Growth and Corticosterone in the Spotted Salamander




Charbonnier, Julie
Pearlmutter, Jacquelyn
Vonesh, James
Gabor, Caitlin R.
Forsburg, Zachery R.
Grayson, Kristine L.

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Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute


For organisms with complex life cycles, conditions experienced during early life stages may constrain later growth and survival. Conversely, compensatory mechanisms may attenuate negative effects from early life stages. We used the spotted salamander, Ambystoma maculatum, to test how aquatic larval density and terrestrial moisture influence juvenile growth, food intake, evaporative water loss and water reuptake rates, and corticosterone levels. We conducted an outdoor mesocosm experiment to manipulate larval density and transferred metamorphosed salamanders into low and high terrestrial moisture treatments in laboratory terrariums. After the larval stage, high-density salamanders were significantly smaller and had higher corticosterone release rates than those from low-density treatments. Salamanders in the low terrestrial moisture treatment consumed fewer roaches, had lower mass-specific growth rates, higher water reuptake, and higher corticosterone release rates than salamanders in high terrestrial moisture treatments. Across moisture treatments, smaller salamanders had higher mass-specific growth rates than larger salamanders. Our results suggest that salamanders can partially compensate for competition in the larval aquatic habitat with increased growth as juveniles, but this response is dependent on terrestrial habitat quality. Thus, the persistence of early life stage effects can be an important, yet context-dependent, component of amphibian life cycles.



Ambystoma maculatum, amphibians, complex life cycle, development, evaporative water loss, desiccation, food intake, stress, Biology


Charbonnier, J., Pearlmutter, J., Vonesh, J., Gabor, C. R., Forsburg, Z. R., Grayson, K. L. (2018). Cross-life stage effects of aquatic larval density and terrestrial moisture on growth and corticosterone in the spotted salamander. Diversity, 10(3): 68.


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