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The Effects of Environmental Temperature on Locomotor Performance and Growth Patterns in Spotted Salamander, Ambystoma Maculatum

THE EFFECTS OF ENVIRONMENTAL TEMPERATURE ON LOCOMOTOR PERFORMANCE AND GROWTH PATTERNS IN SPOTTED SALAMANDER, AMBYSTOMA MACULATUM SEPTEMBER 2010 SUELLEN ALMEIDA, B.A., UNIVERSITY OF MASSACHUSETTS AMEHRST M.A., UNIVERSITY OF MASSACHUSETTS AMHERST Directed by: Professor Duncan J. Irschick Variation in temperature has a profound effect on many aspects of an animal’s physiology, behavior, and performance capacities. Although animals are capable of coping with a range of temperature, they are adapted to specific boundaries of temperature. In an era of global climate change, it is fundamental to comprehend how organisms will react in relation to temperature-related stress and how warmer environmental temperature will affect whole organism performance, as these traits are often crucial to survival. In this study, I examined the effects of temperature on time to hatching period, body length, and larval growth rate. Specifically, I address the following two questions. First, does an increase in temperature affect the duration of time to hatching period? Second, do temperature and the duration of the time to hatching period affect body length at the time of hatching, subsequent growth rate? Furthermore, I investigate the effects of temperature on larval locomotor performance by examining whether or not temperature can result in any impairment of locomotor performance variables (velocity and acceleration). Specifically, I wish to address the following question, does an increase in environmental temperature affect both larval maximum and average velocity and acceleration? In order to answer such questions I raised one egg cluster of Spotted Salamander, Ambystoma maculatum, in two different temperatures (15°C and 21°C). I maintained both the eggs and the resulting larvae in these different temperature regimes until the larvae had reached two weeks of age. I then examined the effects of temperature on body length, growth rate, and locomotor performance. I found that temperature does not have a direct significant effect on body length in A. maculatum. However, I found that temperature has a significant effect on the length of time to hatching period and that the length of time to hatching period is directly correlated to body length. I also found that temperature does not have a significant effect on larval velocity but does have a significant effect on larval acceleration. I argue here that an increase in the mean environmental temperature could result in a decrease in locomotor performance and consequent higher predation susceptibility.
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