Salamanders have ‘tricks up their sleeves’ for weathering climate change

Salamanders have ‘tricks up their sleeves’ for weathering climate change

Rising temperatures and drying air pose problems for plants and animals around the planet. Amphibians, with their permeable skin and inability to travel far, are considered to be among the most vulnerable to global warming. But new research published yesterday in Science Advances provides a bit of hope, finding salamanders in eastern North America may be able to cope with a changing world better than scientists previously assumed. North America is the world’s salamander diversity hotspot, home to nearly half of all species on the planet. The Appalachian Mountains in the eastern U.S. and Canada is a hotspot within this hotspot, containing around 10 percent of the world’s species. Scientists think the region is home to so many because it is there, in small mountain streams, where the most-diverse salamander family – Plethodontidae – first evolved millions of years ago. Today, salamanders are so plentiful that they are likely the most abundant vertebrates in North American forests. Scientists think there are so many salamanders in the southern Appalachians that the mass of those that live in just one square mile of forest would together likely weigh between 2,500 and 5,000 pounds. That’s a lot of salamanders, considering many of them have about as much heft as a teaspoon of sugar. “On the nights when I was surveying for salamanders, I could look down and find them sitting on top of my boots. I had to pay special attention to every step I took,” said Eric Riddell, a biologist currently at…

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