That aside, let's move on to some basics! Be warned, this is going to be a really long post.
P. cinereus is an incredibly abundant species in the forests of the Northeast part of the US, and it can be found in nearly every county here in Ohio. In fact, P. cinereus is thought to be the most abundant vertebrate species in the Northeast quarter of the US. They can reach densities of 2.8 individuals per square meter in good habitats, making this species more abundant than birds and mammals combined. In addition, there is some compelling evidence that the 2.8 individuals per square meter number is actually an underestimate; it might be double that number (See Semlitsch et al., 2014)! It is important to note that the bulk of a given population of Red-Backed Salamanders lives below the surface, so trying to accurately estimate a population is difficult when you can only find those individuals who are on the surface (See Taub 1961). When Maggie and I travel to a good location in Northern Ohio, we can normally find at least one individual under every rock or log you flip. It's amazing to think that all those individuals we readily find under cover objects represent only a fraction of the individuals actually living in that location.
|The two common morphs of the Red-Backed Salamander, with the red-stripe morph on the right, and the lead morph on the left.|
As stated previously, the red-stripe morph is by far the most common, especially in Ohio. There are, however, many polymorphic populations. Northern Ohio has a relatively high density of polymorphic populations, where one can find both the lead and red-stripe morph (and occasionally the erythristic morph) all living together in the same location. The ratios between the morphs vary according to each site. Interestingly, there are a few all-lead populations in Ohio, such as the population on South Bass Island. This is not a common occurrence by any means.
Vincent Farallo, an Ohio University graduate student, did tell me that he has seen a lot of individuals like this at Strouds Run State Park in Athens County.
|Maggie Hantak measuring a Red-Backed Salamander using a method termed "Mander-Mashing." Seriously. (No salamanders are harmed in this process.)|
I've got several more salamander posts in the works that I'll hopefully be finishing up sometime during Summer, so if you're a herpetology person, stay tuned! Otherwise, I'll be covering the usual interesting things I come across this summer, including flowers, birds, insects, parks and more. Thanks for reading!