Over the next 100 years, global mean temperatures are expected to warm. With warming climates, some environments may become unsuitable for an organism, resulting in local extinctions. Currently, nearly 50% of amphibians are threatened by habitat destruction, pollution, disease, and overexploitation. To make matters worse, warming temperatures may push more amphibians closer to extinction. However, many organisms can respond to rapidly changing conditions by changing their physiology. The stress response is a common mechanism that organisms use to allocate energy towards life-sustaining processes in response to changing environmental conditions. Here, we leveraged the natural changes in temperature and humidity that occur along an elevational gradient to determine how stress varies upon exposure to changing environmental conditions. We conducted a reciprocal transplant study at low, mid, and high areas within the elevational range of the Southern gray-cheeked salamander (Plethodon metcalfi) in a balanced experimental design. The relative level of stress between treatments was measured using neutrophil:lymphocyte ratio (N:L) from blood samples. Data suggests that mass and elevation contribute to salamander stress responses and may indicate that high elevation sites provide the most suitable habitat for Southern gray-cheeked salamanders.
Nielsen, Molly; Stewart, M Taylor; Riddell, Eric; Apanovitch, Evan; and Sears, Mike, "Using the Stress Response Along an Elevational Gradient to Understand Habitat Suitability of the Southern Gray-cheeked Salamander, Plethodon metcalfi" (2015). Focus on Creative Inquiry. 96.