College of Arts and Sciences
The Peaks of Otter Salamander Plethodon hubrichti is found only in the Peaks of Otter area in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia where its range is completely surrounded by the Redback Salamander P. cinereus. In 2005 we conducted a mark-recapture study in the contact zone of P. hubrichti and P. cinereus. From a 10 × 10 m site a total of 349 (including 131 recaps) P. hubrichti and 229 (including 63 recaps) P. cinereus were collected. The number of salamanders collected at the surface correlated with the number of days without rainfall prior to a collection event which was indicative of vertical movements in response to dryness at the surface. Vertical movements in response to surface conditions may explain the “shuffle” seen of individuals beneath cover objects. During sequential collection periods, it was most likely that a different individual was found beneath a particular rock rather than the previous resident and that the new resident was not significantly different in size from the previous resident.
Comparisons between the species indicated no difference in habitat use between species as adults and neonates: young animals were found primarily in leaf litter while older animals were found primarily underneath rocks. Likewise linear movements (median = 0.71 and 1 m), and home ranges (median = 0.25 and 0.13 m2) were similar between P. hubrichti, and P. cinereus, respectively. P. hubrichti, however, appears to have depressed growth rates and adult densities in sympatry when compared with allopatric populations. Our data and information from the literature suggest a stable contact zone; however, this stability might be altered by timbering or other forms of environmental stress.