Microclimatic variation in multiple Salamandra algira populations along an altitudinal gradient: phenology and reproductive strategies
Salamandra algira is one of the southernmost species of the genus, and most of its ecology remains poorly known. We studied the microhabitat conditions of the sites occupied by several populations of S. algira along an altitudinal gradient, and the use of water bodies for reproduction. The microclimate conditions were analysed at six sites in northern Morocco: one site in Beni Snassen massif (S. algira spelaea), two in the Middle Atlas and central Rif mountains (S. algira splendens), and three in the western Rif mountains and Peninsula Tingitana (S. algira tingitana), where a viviparous population also occurs. The microclimate was characterized using temperature and relative humidity data loggers for a period of two years. We also measured the surface area and depth of the water bodies where we found S. algira larvae. Our results showed an autumn-winter reproductive period for all ovoviviparous populations studied. In most of the aquatic habitats examined, larvae appeared between November and March, although this period could extend to May at higher altitudes. Larval abundance and their size variability did not correlate with water body size or microclimate conditions. The decrease in the number of larvae per water body coincided with the existence of suitable conditions for post-metamorphic dispersal. Salamandra algira occurred in regions with moist conditions (annual average relative humidity greater than 64 %) and with mean annual temperatures of 13.6-18.6 °C, but populations were largely segregated along a gradient of humidity, with some showing higher and more constant values than others. The viviparous population occurs in a region with maritime influence and greater microclimate stability than the other sites studied.
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