Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Salamanders Are 'Keystone' Species: Headwater Streams Critical In Food Chain

Date:
February 25, 2008
Source:
University of Missouri-Columbia
Summary:
A new study in the journal Freshwater Biology revealed the biomass (total mass of an organism in an area) of the black-bellied salamander far exceeds any previous estimates, and the contribution of the species and its habitat may be critical in the food chain.

Salamanders are a critical component in the productivity of headwater streams, possibly ensuring the survival of other species of fauna.
Credit: Image courtesy of University of Missouri-Columbia

University of Missouri scientist Ray Semlitsch studies creatures most people don't ever see. These creatures are active only at night and thrive in the shallow, cool, wet surroundings of headwater streams, an oft-overlooked biological environment.

A collaborative study, with MU graduate student Bill Peterman, recently published in the journal Freshwater Biology, revealed the biomass (total mass of an organism in an area) of the black-bellied salamander far exceeds any previous estimates, and the contribution of the species and its habitat may be critical in the food chain.

While the ecological role of the salamander is not fully understood, radio-telemetry and mark-recapture tracking methods used in the study indicate the salamanders are a critical component in the productivity of headwater streams, possibly ensuring the survival of other species of fauna.

"This is important because it is the first study to uncover the hidden biomass of these salamanders," said Semlitsch, professor of biological science in the MU College of Arts and Science. "Salamanders typically live underground. They live in places most people don't see, and they live in these small, headwater streams where there are no other fresh-water vertebrates. Fish can't exist in these small streams. This is where water seeps out of the rock, where all streams begin life as a stream."

These headwater streams, according to the study, are very productive areas for salamanders and Semlitsch advocates the protection of these ecosystems.

"The final 'take-home' message of our study is salamanders comprise a huge amount of protein biomass for these headwater stream ecosystems," Semlitsch said. "We think that's important because that biomass can then be used by consumers, such as predators, or could be used by decomposers in that system. The salamanders also are consuming aquatic insects. They are a key link, we think, in these headwater stream systems that has not been detected or uncovered before.

"The amount of biomass we've reported is much, much higher than has ever been reported before, suggesting these headwater streams are very important ecosystems and they deserve protection. In my view, they actually deserve more protection than further down stream. It seems logical to me to protect the water where it's coming out of the ground to retain and maintain clean water and provide ecosystem services downstream."

Semlitsch said the study brings to light the critical importance of salamanders, creatures that most people don't know much about or ever see as compared to birds or mammals.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Missouri-Columbia. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Missouri-Columbia. "Salamanders Are 'Keystone' Species: Headwater Streams Critical In Food Chain." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 February 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080222095730.htm>.
University of Missouri-Columbia. (2008, February 25). Salamanders Are 'Keystone' Species: Headwater Streams Critical In Food Chain. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080222095730.htm
University of Missouri-Columbia. "Salamanders Are 'Keystone' Species: Headwater Streams Critical In Food Chain." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080222095730.htm (accessed August 21, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Unsustainable Elephant Poaching Killed 100K In 3 Years

Unsustainable Elephant Poaching Killed 100K In 3 Years

Newsy (Aug. 20, 2014) Poachers have killed 100,000 elephants between 2010 and 2012, as the booming ivory trade takes its toll on the animals in Africa. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Charter Schools Alter Post-Katrina Landscape

Charter Schools Alter Post-Katrina Landscape

AP (Aug. 20, 2014) Nine years after Hurricane Katrina, charter schools are the new reality of public education in New Orleans. The state of Louisiana took over most of the city's public schools after the killer storm in 2005. (Aug. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Green Power Blooms as Japan Unveils 'hydrangea Solar Cell'

Green Power Blooms as Japan Unveils 'hydrangea Solar Cell'

AFP (Aug. 19, 2014) A solar cell that resembles a flower is offering a new take on green energy in Japan, where one scientist is searching for renewables that look good. Duration: 01:29 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Disquieting Times for Malaysia's 'fish Listeners'

Disquieting Times for Malaysia's 'fish Listeners'

AFP (Aug. 19, 2014) Malaysia's last "fish listeners" -- practitioners of a dying local art of listening underwater to locate their quarry -- try to keep the ancient technique alive in the face of industrial trawling and the depletion of stocks. Duration: 02:29 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins