Increased ultraviolet-B (UV-B) radiation reaching the Earth's surface has been implicated in amphibian declines. Recent studies have shown that many amphibian species have differences in sensitivity depending on developmental stage. Embryos and larvae of Ambystoma maculatum (Spotted Salamander) and larvae of Ambystoma talpoideum (Mole Salamander) were exposed to five simulated UV-B treatments in controlled laboratory experiments to determine the relative sensitivity of different lifestages. Hatching success of the embryos exceeded 95% in all treatments; however, the larvae of both species exhibited greater sensitivity to UV-B exposure. Older larvae of A. maculatum that were not exposed to UV-B as embryos were more sensitive than larvae that had hatched during exposure to UV-B. Growth of surviving larvae of A. maculatum was significantly reduced as UV-B intensity increased, whereas growth of A. talpoideum was unaffected. These results were compared to ambient UV-B conditions in natural environments. It appears that the embryo stage is relatively unaffected by UV-B levels observed in natural habitats, probably because of protection from vegetation, organic matter in the water column, oviposition depth, and egg jelly. The larval stage of these species may be at greater risk, particularly if there is an increase in UV-B radiation exposure caused by increases in water clarity and/or decreases in dissolved organic carbon.
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Sensitivity of two Salamander (Ambystoma) species to ultraviolet radiation