A Tale of Two Morphs: Understanding the Influence of Temperature on Eastern Red-Backed Salamander Color Morphs

Name: Mary Elise Blair
Major: Biology
Minor: Psychology
Advisors: Rick Lehtinen, Hilary Edgington

Color polymorphism is one type of variation in morphology that can be affected by mechanisms of evolution such as natural selection and phenotypic plasticity. My study focuses on Plethodon cinereus, the eastern red-backed salamander, and its two most common color morphs, leadback (unstriped) and redback (striped). We recorded the color morph patterns of P. cinereus in one site with areas of varying temperature in Wayne Co., Ohio. Color morph was recorded in each area and body condition calculated for each individual. Our study site consisted of two slopes, the North- and South-facing slopes, that were only a few hundred meters away from each other and differed in temperature. We predicted and found a higher frequency of the striped morph on the cooler North-facing slope, and also found that when found on the warmer South-facing slope, the striped morph body condition was worse. These results agreed with those of previous studies, but future work needs to be done to determine the causal mechanisms behind these patterns.

With my project, I have to say my favorite aspect was the field work. I’ve never been the type of person to shy away from getting dirty, so getting outside and digging around for salamanders was really something I enjoyed. I also am really excited to say that our findings regarding body condition have not been recorded previously!

Posted in Comments Enabled, Independent Study, Symposium 2023 on April 14, 2023.

2 responses to “A Tale of Two Morphs: Understanding the Influence of Temperature on Eastern Red-Backed Salamander Color Morphs”

  1. Bryan Karazsia says:

    Hi Mary – Thanks for sharing your work with our community! Your tables do a great job of illustrating the effects you found…I know you put a lot of work into this entire project, including the tables and how best to create them.

    Enjoy symposium day!

  2. Anabelle Andersen says:

    Hi Mary, happy symposium day! I loved learning a little more about salamanders. Enjoy the rest of your time at Woo! I am confident that you will continue to do great things beyond it.

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