One point of interest that came up during the salamander hunt on Wednesday night was the variation in spotted salamander coloration. Not much hybridization occurs with spotted salamanders (at least not as much as in the Jefferson complex), but this variation could conceivably result from hybridization. I wonder what environmental conditions could cause spot variation. Presumably, spots serve to warn potential predators of a distasteful and possibly toxic prey source, so with lots of natural variation occurring, it’d be a bit easier to test predation-risk as a function of the number or prominence of yellow spots.
Anyway… here’s a couple of spotted salamander photos illustrating some spot variation, Dean’s first encounter, and a spermatophore!