Date of Award


Degree Name



College of Science

Type of Degree


Document Type


First Advisor

Dr. Donald Tarter

Second Advisor

Dr. Suzanna Strait

Third Advisor

Dr. Thomas


By implementing a mark-recapture study, I investigated the ecology of three species of sympatric plethodontid salamanders (Aneides aeneus, Desmognathus ochrophaeus, and Plethodon glutinosus) on rock outcrops in the Westvaco Wildlife and Ecosystem Research Forest, Randolph County, West Virginia. By examining activity patterns, vertical stratification, and habitat preference for A. aeneus, D. ochrophaeus, and P. glutinosus, I attempted to offer some insight into how these sympatric species avoid competition on small, isolated rock outcrops. Twenty-one surveys, both nocturnal and diurnal, were performed between 11 May and 17 October, 1999. During this time, 89 salamanders, encompassing five species (A. aeneus, D. ochrophaeus, P. glutinosus, P. cinereus, and Notophthalmus v. viridescens), were permanently marked using Visual Implant Flourescent Elastomer (VIE) tags. When salamanders were captured from crevices, three measurements were taken: (1) crevice width, (2) crevice height, (3) crevice depth. There was no significant difference between the height and depth of crevices inhabited by Z. aeneus, D. ochrophaeus, and P. glutinosus. However, P. glutinosiis and A. aeneus occupied crevices that were significantly wider than those inhabited by D. ochrophaens. Crevice microclimatic conditions (air temperature and relative humidity) did not significantly differ from the ambient. Aneides aeneus occupied significantly higher portions of the rock outcrops than both D. ochrophaeus and P. glutinosus. Desmognathus ochrophaeus occupied higher portions of rock outcrops than P. glutinosus. The activity patterns and surface abundance of A. aeneus and D. ochrophaeus differed seasonally, but the surface abundance of P. glutinosus remained constant throughout the study period. Because A. aeneus, D. ochrophaeus and P. glutinosus vertically stratify and differ in terms of seasonal activity, they avoid interspecific competition.

Aspects of the life history and population demography of the green salamander, A. aeneus, were of importance to this project as well. Because little is known about the extent to which A. aeneus disperses between isolated rock outcrops, I attempted to monitor movement and dispersal activities of this species by surrounding three rock outcrops with drift fences. Two isolated rock outcrops located at least 300 m from the study area were searched monthly to determine if marked individuals had migrated to other rocks. No marked individuals were ever observed on rocks outcrops outside of the study area. However, one female moved between adjacent rocks within the study area. There was no significant difference between movement patterns of males and females. Adults and sexually immature individuals did not differ significantly in movement patterns.


Randolph County (W. Va.).

Salamanders – West Virginia – Randolph County.

Salamanders – Ecology.