In Maine, most of the information we use to manage vernal pools comes from studies on wood frogs and spotted salamanders. We know little about the third amphibian indicator species, the blue-spotted salamander, and even less about a fourth lineage of amphibian, the unisexual salamander. The latter is an all-female, “hybrid” lineage that does not meet the traditional definition of a species. Unisexuals are different from other Maine amphibians in that they:
-Bear the DNA of both blue-spotted salamanders and Jefferson salamanders
-Are polyploid, meaning they have either 3 or 4 copies of each chromosome
-Must take sperm from a different species to stimulate their eggs to develop
Kris is working to fill in some of the holes in our knowledge of these 2 salamanders. Through a combination of traps, radio telemetry, and genetic work, she has set out to learn about the breeding ecology and habitat selection of blue-spotted salamanders and unisexual salamanders in Maine. Only once we have a background understanding of the complex can we begin to develop ways to conserve both salamanders for future generations.