Study shows how salamanders harness limb regeneration to buffer selves from climate change - Tue 10 Sep 17:35 GMT

Looking like a cross between a frog and a lizard, the gray cheek salamander has thin, smooth skin and no lungs. The amphibian breathes through its skin, and to survive it must keep its skin moist. As environmental conditions grow hotter or drier, scientists w…

  New research from Clemson University shows thatthe gray cheek salamander, which inhabits the Southern Appalachian Mountains, actually harnesses its unique ability to regenerate limbs to rapidly minimize the impact of hot temperatures.

  Researchers from Clemson University's College of Science have shown for the first time that these salamanders inhabiting the southern Appalachian Mountains use temperature rather than humidity as the best cue to anticipate changes in their environment.

  Lead author Eric Riddell, who earned his doctorate at Clemson in 2018 and is now a postdoctoral scholar at the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology at the University of California, Berkeley, collected about 150 salamanders from the mountains near Highlands, North Carolina, and brought them back to Sears' Clemson lab, where he gave them a month to get used to their new environment.

  Clemson biological sciences associate professor Mike Sears (left) and former graduate student Eric Riddell published their latest results indicating that salamanders harness their unique ability to regenerate limbs to rapidly minimize the impact of hot temperatures.

  "We found that salamanders anticipate the risk of drying out by using temperature and not humidity," said Riddell, noting that while humidity does play a role in the rate of dehydration, it's not as reliable a cue for the animals.

  Riddell also conducted gene analyses of tissue samples from the salamanders' skin to understand what physiological changes were occurring at the cellular level that enabled the animals to hold water in their bodies rather than have it evaporate through their skin.

  information: Eric A. Riddell et al, Thermal cues drive plasticity of desiccation resistance in montane salamanders with implications for climate change, Nature Communications (2019).