Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Hybrid Salamanders

Maureen E. Ryan and Jarrett R. Johnson, from UC Davis, and Benjamin M. Fitzpatrick from the University of Tennessee are studying the impact of the California tiger salamanders and barred tiger salamanders hybrids. The latter was brought to California 60 years ago by Texas bait dealers and have been gulping other pond larvae down rapidly with their big mouths but the hybrids spell even more trouble for native species. Henry Fountain reports:

The researchers built artificial ponds, stocked them with salamanders and other species, notably the California newt and the Pacific chorus frog (both of which are found in the Salinas Valley) and monitored what happened. Their findings appear in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Hybrid larvae had a greater effect on the newts and frogs than native salamander larvae did, nearly wiping them out. Hybrids even affected the survival of native salamanders in the ponds. “The implication is they’re ecologically quite different than the native species,” Ms. Ryan said.

That could spell trouble for other “third-party” species in the valley, like the California red-legged frog and the Santa Cruz long-toed salamander.

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