Inter- and intra-specific dietary overlap in predacious bi-phasic salamanders

Jacob M. Hutton, Stephen C. Richter, Steven J. Price

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


When multiple species with similar trophic niches co-occur in an ecosystem, foraging, refuge, and breeding microhabitats are predicted to be partitioned in order to enable their coexistence. However, few studies have examined potential niche partitioning among vertebrates with a bi-phasic natural history, such as stream salamanders. In addition to microhabitat, the coexistence of multiple species and life-stages is likely facilitated by the partitioning of diet. As plethodontid stream salamanders have an aquatic larval stage and a semi-aquatic adult stage (i.e., post-metamorphic), the diets of multiple species and life-stages can elucidate patterns in their community structure. Specifically, dietary overlaps can be used to evaluate the level of niche overlap and thus, potential competition among different species and life-stages. In this study, we non-lethally examined the dietary overlap among five predacious aquatic larval and three semi-aquatic adult stream salamander species in southeastern Kentucky. Our data illustrated both inter- and intra-specific dietary overlaps among the stream salamander community. We additionally observed dietary overlaps among all adult salamanders and their larval counterparts. We found differential dietary clustering and separation among some of the species and life-stages. Though not directly tested in this study, our results are suggestive of selection/constraint to species- and life-stage-specific foraging microhabitats.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3461-3480
Number of pages20
Issue number16
StatePublished - Sep 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This is contribution number 64 of Lilley Cornett Woods Appalachian Ecological Research Station, Eastern Kentucky University. The Department of Forestry and Natural Resources at the University of Kentucky provided resources, facilities, and permission for usage of Robinson Forest. We thank Dan Dourson for assistance on micro-gastropod identification and John W. Reynolds for assistance with identifying oligochaetes. Lastly, we thank the Division of Natural Areas for facility use and access to Lilley Cornett Woods. Research was performed under the University of Kentucky Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee protocol No. 2012-1054 and Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources permit No. SC1.

Funding Information:
Funding for this project was provided by the following organizations: Kentucky Academy of Science (Marcia Athey Grant), Tracy Farmer Institute for Sustainability and the Environment, University of Kentucky (Karri Casner Environmental Sciences Fellowship), Appalachian Center, University of Kentucky (Eller Billings Summer Research Mini-Grant), Division of Natural Areas, Eastern Kentucky University (Grant-in-Aid of Student Research Program), the Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles (Roger Conant Grants in Herpetology Program, Conservation of Amphibians and Reptiles), McIntire-Stennis Research Program (Accession Number 1001968), Foundation for the Conservation of Salamanders (Daniel M. Digiacomo Grant), and the Society of Freshwater Science (Graduate Student Conservation Award).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Switzerland AG.


  • Coexistence
  • Competition
  • Dietary overlap
  • Stream ecology
  • Stream salamanders

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science


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