Variations in age, size at maturity and gestation duration among two neighbouring populations of the alpine salamander (Salamandra lanzai)

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All correspondence to: C. Miaud. E-mail: claude.miaud@univ-savoie.fr

Abstract

We describe the age structures of two neighbouring terrestrial salamander populations. The skeletochronological method was also used on larvae in utero and on new-born individuals. The age of adults was 8–24 years in population A, while males reached maturity at 3–5 years old and the youngest females were 6 years old in population B. Males and females from population B were also larger than those in population A. For the first time, lines of arrested growth (LAGs) were also found in the humerus of intra-uterine larvae and new-born individuals, indicating that young can spend up to 3 years in utero (population B) and up to 4 years (population A) before hatching. Growth of adults (fitted by the Bertalanffy model) also exhibited differences in growth coefficient (k) and mean asymptotic length (SVLmax) between sexes and populations. Local climatic conditions differed between the two areas of these populations and we hypothesize that the number of rainy days directly influences foraging during the short period of activity (< 3 months), leading to a delay in age at maturity, smaller length and growth rate, and increased gestation duration in the drier environment. The discussion is focused on proximate environmental influences on the variation of length and associated life-history traits in ectotherms, especially in terrestrial salamanders.

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