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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I am going to begin amatuer research locally on this naturally occuring hybridization of species. It has long fascinated me, and I have a real desire to bring our local understanding of populations more up to date.

I have done population density surveys in the past, but I was focusing on plethodontid salamanders, primarily E. bislineata. This will be very fun.

I have written an article that I intend to use as a crude template. When looking at the article, please be critical of it and let me know what you see that would better it's affectiveness, etc. I appreciate this very much...

Field Herping and Data Collection

This is an article intended to provide info that is worth taking note of when looking to conduct field studies and record relevant data. There are many things to consider when researching a wild population. Here I will explain what should be documented, and why.
This article is written in regards to general pond/vernal pool breeding species, to include:
Ambystomids, Notophthalmus, etc.
The first thing you would want to document is the location. You san use city name, or even GPS coordinates. Take note that GPS coordinates should not be published publicly, as the site may be targeted easily. GPS info is best given to a local conservation group, your Division of Natural Resources, etc. The next thing you may want to document is the size of the area you are surveying. This helps as it will be a good way to determine population densities as individuals are found, measured, described, etc. Try and be as accurate in the measurement of area size. You will next want to describe the habitat. Pictures are a great addition and will help you to better demonstrate species found, plants, topography, etc. As you encounter specimens you will want to take good notes on each individual. Some things to document are:
1. Species
2. Gender
3. Length. Always take accurate measurements every time you catch a specimen. If it is an individual you have described prior, take the measurement and compare it's length to the first time.
4. Physical Description(Pics, drawings, narative, etc.). Try and find a unique mark or something on the individual so that if you encounter the same animal again, you can update your data on that specimen.
5. Description Of Exact Situation Specimen Was Found, i.e, under a log 2 feet from water, etc. You will want to include the date, temperature, and weather conditions like rain, sun, etc.
6. Give Each Individual A Code, Or Name. An example would be A.t.1(meaning Ambystoma texanum 1), and then A.t.2 for the second individual, and so on. That way you are better organized and able to document individuals as you re-encounter them.
If you are able, check the water's parameters that are in the habitat at various points. Document the reults of all tests, noting location for each. Retest as close to the same spot whenever you go back to see if there is fluctuation from weather to weather, season to season, year to year, etc. You will need to have a good "dipnet" in order to evaluate breeding successes, verifying breeding has occured, and determining what is breeding. All larvae found should be documented in the same way as described above.-- If local laws permit--, an example specimen of different species' larvae can be removed and home reared. This will help better determine the species, and also will give valuable insight on growth rates, food prey, etc.
When field studies are done correctly, they provide A LOT of info that can be used to better understand not only the specimens, but the entire ecosytem of the study area. The data you collect will be something you can contribtue to the conservation of your local herps.

Written By: Justin Bear

This is a rough copy and has some editing fails...But you get the idea...

I have provided some pics of representatives of the complex.

JBear
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
I had something to add. My original post featured links to the article and description of Complex. The links did not work. Here is the description(this is an excerpt from a thread on Welcome to salamandridae ):

"...In Ohio we have Jefferson Salamanders(A. jeffersonianum), Blue-spotted Salamanders(A. laterale), Silvery Salamanders(A. platineum), and Tremblay's Salamanders(A. tremblayi). So, the entire complex can be found here in the Great Lakes Region in the state of Ohio!
I am going to do my best to breakdown how these hybrids were naturally spawned, and how they continue to persist today...

A. jeffersonianum:

Unique morphology: 4.75"-8.25". Wide snout, long toes, dark brown/brownish-gray dorsally, sometimes has blueish flecks on legs and sides of body, ventral lighter than dorsum, cloacal area is gray. Costal grooves: 12.

Breeding info: Breeds with A. laterale, and males breed with A. platineum(a hybrid, all-female species).

A. laterale:

Unique morphology: 3"-5". Short-legged, narrow snout, grayish-black to blueish-black above with large blueish-white flecks. ventral lighter than dorsum, cloacal area is black. Costal grooves: 12.

Breeding info: Breeds with A. jeffersonianum, males breed with A. tremblayi(a hybrid, all female species)

A. platineum:

Unique morphology: 5 and 1/8"-7.75". Brownish-gray with many silvery-blue spots on back and sides. Cloacal area is gray. No data known to me on costal groove count...

Breeding info: Breeds with male A. jeffersonianum, who's sperm only stimulates egg production, but does not contribute any genetic material.

A. tremblayi:

Unique morphology: 3.75"-6 and 3/8". Dark gray to gray-black dorsally with many blueish-white markings on back and sides. Cloacal area is black. No data known to me on costal groove count.

Breeding info: Breeds with male A. laterale, who's sperm only stimulates egg production, but does not contribute any genetic material.


I hope that this is a decent help to those who are not familiar with this complex! They are a fascinating group to observe, and are all March-April breeders in vernal pools that range from permanent, to semi-permanent.

JBear"

JBear
 

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specify how you will take measurements. In amphibian surveys I have done, we always use SVL(snout to vent length) instead of overall length, because tails can become damaged. We also took head width measurements.

Is photo documentation of pattern REALLY a reliable way to recognize individuals? It seems that a seperate study would have to be done just to prove that.

What exactly is it you are collecting data on? Number of hybrids in each breeding area?
If so, then a total number of animals must be kept, with breakdown of species, and hybrid animals present. With this data, some sort of chart must be made to provide visual aid

How will you determine what is a hybrid, and what is species? Provide this information in your report (length of forelimbs to torso, do the forelimbs fold back and touch the hind limbs etc.)

Time frame for this research- will you be conducting studies only once per season in each location/multiple times etc. or multiple times at regular intervals throughout their breeding season? Time parameters for data collection are important to set.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 · (Edited)
Thank you so much! Those tips will help take my study to a much higher level of relevancy! Now, to answer the questions you asked, lol... I intend to do this on a continuous cycle(meaning going out 2x per month) for 2-3 years depending on data reflections and analysis of stability, etc. The measurements I intended to take were snout to tail tip, but have made a great point in that it is unreliable as damage may occur, etc. Proving individuals... Great question... My idea was to have a very large map of the area in total and do my best to accurately chart in a visual way where these specimens are located within the study range. My theory is that individuals will "hold" the ground as home territory as they are not migrating anywhere to find there breeding site. Taking this into consideration, perhaps patterns, abnormalities, etc can help keep an eye on individuals... As afr as proving hybrids, I cannot be sure the best way. That was a secret agenda I was looking to have answered, lol. The only way for sure is lab tests, but I have neither the resources, nor the equipment to succedd. I admit, I am in need of help to make this a real contribution to my local fauna. You have illustrated an effective way in trying to describe hybrids by your suggestion of torso, forelimb, hindlimb, etc measurements. I think this is my only viable option. Also, ONLY females have the potential of being a hybrid individual.

I should also note, that only recently(to my knowledge) was it confirmed that A. texanum is involved in the genetic muckery of this complex as a whole.

Thank you for your valuable feedback!!!

JBear
 

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You may also want to review the data in Petranka's book Salamanders of the United States and Canada as the triploid complexs are not as simple as was commonly portrayed in the field guides. These hybrids are not modern (in the effect that the hybrids are still being formed today) and often contain surprising mixtures of DNA.


Ed
 

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Justin, I have a couple questions for you...Are you working with the DNR or any other agency in this project or is this on your own? Also what part of Ohio are you going to be working in? I am in the Fairlawn/Akron area and would be willing to go out an look also. A couple years ago at Akron U, we went to Kelleys Island and looked for A.opacum and other reptiles/amphibians in our herp class. The marbled is by far my favorite salamander.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Justin, I have a couple questions for you...Are you working with the DNR or any other agency in this project or is this on your own? Also what part of Ohio are you going to be working in? I am in the Fairlawn/Akron area and would be willing to go out an look also. A couple years ago at Akron U, we went to Kelleys Island and looked for A.opacum and other reptiles/amphibians in our herp class. The marbled is by far my favorite salamander.
I would love help! This is a personal mission, but results will be reported to the DNR. I will be using a study area in the Avon(Very General Description...) area. I am very familiar with the site. If you want additional info, please PM me. I will provide my phone number and what ever other details you may wish to know. Thanks for the interest!!!

JBear
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
You may also want to review the data in Petranka's book Salamanders of the United States and Canada as the triploid complexs are not as simple as was commonly portrayed in the field guides. These hybrids are not modern (in the effect that the hybrids are still being formed today) and often contain surprising mixtures of DNA.


Ed
Is there a digital copy available for viewing online? I have read online studies, but all were relatively short or excerpts from a large article, etc. Thanks for the direction, Ed! I have wanted to buy a copy of that book for a long time!

JBear
 

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Does Ohio have a Herp Atlas project going on?

I haven't seen Petranka's description as a free pdf but the historical lineages of the hybrid ambystomids is pretty crazy.... depending on the population they can be any mixture of the following; tiger salamander, mole salamander, blue spot and jefferson's salamanders (in multiple ways..)

Ed
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Does Ohio have a Herp Atlas project going on?

I haven't seen Petranka's description as a free pdf but the historical lineages of the hybrid ambystomids is pretty crazy.... depending on the population they can be any mixture of the following; tiger salamander, mole salamander, blue spot and jefferson's salamanders (in multiple ways..)

Ed
If they do have a project going on, I am not aware of it(I would like to be!). This is an independant study. I will be providing my DNR with a copy of results and the complete journal when complete. I will also be giving a copy to my local science center.

To my understanding there has been a lot of interbreeding that occured within the range of the great lakes. The species you have listed above, to include the others that I have mentioned. If more people that were capable took the time to work with these species in a CONTROLLED way to see what genetics show up within siblings(same egg clutch collected and reared, etc.), a lot may be learned about the effect on generations. What do you think,Ed?

Thanks as always!

JBear
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
All great links! Some show a bit of contradiction. Study vs study, there seems to be a lot of work to be done in determining clonal vs selective genetic inheritance. I truly appreciate all you do to help, Ed! You have helped me more than you know!

JBear
 

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Look at the dates for the studies and the main reason you get the contradictions is due to techniques used and if they have been refined or not... Petranka's book just sums it up (at the time it was published).


Ed
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
I will look into obtaining a copy. At a minimum, my study will show that A. texanum, and A. laterale are in previously unknown parts of Ohio. This is good. Thanks again for the help!

JBear
 

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Hi Jbear,

Has anyone performed any progeny studies with these Ambystomas? I work with a hybrid swarm of native oaks (Quercus) here on Staten Island and have ongoing progeny studies that have really helped me understand their genetics quite a bit.

We also have both Northern and Southern Ringneck Snakes in my neighborhood and the intergrade between the two. It would certainly be interesting to see if the intergrades are fertile and what kind of progeny the produce. The project is on my "long list".


There might be additional permit requirements to set-up such a study for the Ambystomas, but it might be something to think about down the road.

Good luck and keep us updated! Richard.
 

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Hi Richard,

It is actually pretty well understood as the sperm doesn't contribute anything to the egg other than activating the development of the embryo. There are triploid and tetrapolid populations which if you look at the range maps have funky ancestral contributions.

The intergrade in the ringnecks is fertile.

Ed
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Hi Jbear,

Has anyone performed any progeny studies with these Ambystomas? I work with a hybrid swarm of native oaks (Quercus) here on Staten Island and have ongoing progeny studies that have really helped me understand their genetics quite a bit.

We also have both Northern and Southern Ringneck Snakes in my neighborhood and the intergrade between the two. It would certainly be interesting to see if the intergrades are fertile and what kind of progeny the produce. The project is on my "long list".


There might be additional permit requirements to set-up such a study for the Ambystomas, but it might be something to think about down the road.

Good luck and keep us updated! Richard.
I have a history with my local DNR. I have obtained permits in the past. The study area is not protected ground as of yet. After my study, I hope it will be considered. There are no plethodontid salamanders, no snakes of any kind, and only treefrog type nieghbors. It seems a great study area. I can't wait to get started! I have to notify the DNR, and send them a copy of my template, and also a brief summary of intent.( This is a courtesy measure...)

JBear
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Thought I would share my VERY basic data collection sheet that will be used to document specimens.

Specimen Data Log

Study Area:
Specimen ID:
Species:
Gender:
Length:
Physical Description:

Habitat Description:

Notes:


JBear
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Are there any cheap cameras that are well suited for field pics? My camera is very expensive, and I am sure my wife will not let me take it into the woods, lol! However, it seems that this tool is invaluable in describing individuals.

Thanks!

JBear
 
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