Filling in the Gaps: Natural History and Conservation of Bolitoglossine Salamanders in Central Panama


The goal of this study was to document the natural history of salamanders in central Panama and assess their response to drought conditions, which are predicted to become more common as a result of climate change. We conducted 123 transect surveys at night along a concrete trail in a natural area protected by the Panamanian national environmental authority Autoridad Nacional Ambiente (ANAM.) We marked 122 individuals, including two genera and three species, Bolitoglossa biseriata, Oedipina complex, and Oedipina parvipes, from 1 June to 30 July 2013, 10 December 2013 to 6 January 2014, and 1 June to 30 July 2014. All three field seasons took place during a long-term Central American drought. The mean mass of B. biseriata, the most common species of salamander encountered, was 0.8±0.4 g with an average snout-vent length (SVL) of 31.45±5.30 mm. A principal component analysis indicated that B. biseriata utilized all of the available ground-level habitats where surveys were conducted. Bolitoglossa biseriata mostly sat on the leaves of plants anywhere from 14.0-303.8 cm off the ground between 1830 and 0530 h. The season, the air temperature, and the amount of precipitation in the previous 24 h had the largest influence on our detection rate of B. biseriata. Bolitoglossa biseriata in central Panama is nocturnal and most active during the rainy season. Oedipina complex and O. parvipes were equally abundant, but the number of captures for each species varied significantly with season. The Oedipina spp. were found primarily on the ground, although it was not uncommon for them to be climbing on the hand rail or a small plant. A chytrid fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), was detected on B. biseriata and O. parvipes, but we did not detect any mortality resulting from infection. The salamander species at our study site are behaviorally characteristic of their genera, but they have unique color varieties and change their surface activity in correlation with different weather conditions.



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