Ambystoma gracile (Baird) and Ambystoma macrodactylum Baird are common salamander species occupying key trophic positions in mountain ponds and lakes of Mount Rainier National Park (MORA). Based on amphibian surveys conducted in ponds and lakes in the northeast quadrant of MORA during the summers of 1993a??1995, 20 sites were resampled in 1996 to document and evaluate distributions of the two species relative to site habitat characteristics. Distributions of larvae were assessed either by nearshore snorkel or visual encounter surveys of each study site. Twelve environmental variables representing pond and lake physical characteristics, water quality, and nutrient concentrations were measured. The occurrences at each site of three major habitat components (i.e., pond bottom firmness, coarse woody debris, and emergent/aquatic vegetation) were qualitatively estimated. Allotopic distributions of larval populations of both species were related to site elevation, maximum depth, organic content of bottom substrates, and surface area. Ambystoma gracile sites were larger, deeper, lower in elevation, had flocculent sediment higher in organic content, abundant coarse woody debris, and limited emergent/aquatic vegetation relative to A. macrodactylum sites. Ambystoma macrodactylum sites were smaller, shallower, higher in elevation, had firm sediments low in organic content, and had a greater occurrence of emergent/aquatic vegetation than did A. gracile sites. Two sites supported syntopic populations and exhibited many of the habitat characteristics observed at sites inhabited by each species. The distribution of each species in MORA was related to the interconnection between habitat characteristics of ponds and lakes and species life-history patterns and possibly interspecific interactions.
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Habitat segregation of Ambystoma gracile and Ambystoma macrodactylum in mountain ponds, Mount Rainer National Park, Washington, USA