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For some salamanders, finding a mate is a marathon

For some salamanders, finding a mate is a marathon

Treadmill, genetic tests show amphibians travel several kilometers to reproduce

By
7:15pm, December 20, 2016
scientist holding a salamander

ENDURANCE ATHLETES A small-mouthed salamander can travel up to 14 kilometers to reproduce, unlike its clonally reproducing kin. Ohio State University ecologist Rob Denton holds one of these clonal critters.  

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When looking for love, some small-mouthed salamanders can really go the distance.

These intrepid amphibians (Ambystoma texanum) will risk death and dehydration to travel almost nine kilometers on average and as far as 14 to find a mate, researchers report December 20 in Functional Ecology. But all-female populations of a closely related group of salamanders that reproduce by cloning can’t go nearly as far.

Scientists tested the amphibians’ endurance on tiny treadmills. Then the team analyzed genetic differences between salamanders in patches of Ohio wetlands to see how far the amphibians might roam in the wild. Unisexual salamanders could only go a quarter of the treadmill distance that the small-mouthed salamanders could. And in the wild, they only dispersed about half as far from the pools where they were born.  

By making the treacherous trek to a different pool to mate, A. texanum<

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