Habitat features and distribution of Salamandra salamandra in underground springs

Raoul Manenti, Gentile F. Ficetola, Barbara Bianchi, Fiorenza De Bernardi

Abstract


Subterranean habitats are among the less known terrestrial habitats, but can reveal an unexpected biodiversity, and can play an underestimated role for amphibians. The fire salamander Salamandra salamandra is sometimes found in underground environments, but the factors affecting its distribution in subterranean spaces remain substantially unexplored. We repeatedly surveyed some hypogeous springs, such as draining galleries and “bottini” in NW Italy, in order to evaluate the relationship between environmental features and distribution of S. salamandra in these underground springs. We performed visual encounter surveys to assess the occurrence of larvae, juveniles or adults in springs. We also recorded four habitat variables: easy of access, isolation, macrobenthos richness and forest cover of the surrounding landscape. We used generalized linear models to evaluate the relationships between habitat features and occurrence of larvae. We observed larvae of S. salamandra in 13 out of 22 springs; their presence was associated to springs with high easy of access and with relatively rich macrobenthos communities. In underground springs, larval development apparently required longer time than in nearby epigeous streams. Nevertheless, S. salamandra can attain metamorphosis in this environment. The occurrence of S. salamandra in underground environments was not accidental, but repeated in the time and interesting from an ecological point of view, confirming the high plasticity of the species.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.13128/Acta_Herpetol-3416




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