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Physical Condition, Sex, and Age-Class of Eastern Red-Backed Salamanders (Plethodon cinereus) in Forested and Open Habitats of West Virginia, USA
Riedel, Breanna L.
Russell, Kevin R.
Ford, W. Mark
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Nonforested habitats such as open fields and pastures have been considered unsuitable for desiccation-prone woodland salamanders such as the Eastern Red-backed Salamander (Plethodon cinereus). Recent research has suggested that Plethodon cinereus may not only disperse across but also reside within open habitats including fields, meadows, and pastures. However, presence and high densities of P. cinereus within agriculturally disturbed habitats may be misleading if these populations exhibit atypical demographic characteristics or decreased physical condition relative to forest populations. We surveyed artificial cover boards from 2004-2005 to compare physical condition, sex ratios, and age-class structure of P. cinereus among woodland, woodland-meadow edge, silvopasture, and meadow sites in the central Appalachian Mountains of southern West Virginia. Physical condition of salamanders was not significantly different among the four habitats. Furthermore, adult sex ratios of P. cinereus typically were not significantly different from 1 : 1 and were similar between forested and non-forested sites, although populations within silvopastures were biased towards females. However, adult salamanders were significantly more abundant than juveniles in all habitat types, with differences most pronounced within meadow habitats. Our study indicates that relatively small, non-forested habitats such as silvopastures and meadows may not adversely affect the overall physical condition or sex ratios of Plethodon cinereus. However, the paucity of juveniles within disturbed meadows indicates that these agriculturally modified habitats may negatively impact reproduction or that immature salamanders are at a physiological or competitive disadvantage in comparison to adults, particularly when surface cover is limited.