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Mertensiella caucasica (Caucasian salamander / Kafkas Semenderi)

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Mertensiella caucasica (Caucasian salamander / Kafkas Semenderi)

Mertensiella caucasica (Caucasian salamander / Kafkas Semenderi) (Adult Male/ Ergin Erkek 

This beauty is restricted to north-east Turkey (the cities of Giresun, Rize, Trabzon, Artvin, Kars, Bayburt, and Gumushane) and western parts of Georgia. It is present at altitudes of sea level-1,800m asl. Costal (rib) grooves well-developed, 11-12 on each side of the body. Body elongated and slender. Tail usually longer than body with head. Adults are able to autotomize and regenerate the tail. Coloration black, dark-brown or brown-orange with oval yellow dorsal and lateral spots arranged in two more or less regular rows. Belly brownish. The extent of the yellow spot development is subject to variation. In contrast to females, the males possess a spike-shaped protuberance (called as Hedonic Protuberance) on the dorsal surface of the tail base and nuptial pads on the forelegs which are best developed during the breeding season. In Turkey, the species lives mainly in the beech, coniferous, and mixed forests, in the subalpine belt and in alpine meadows. The salamander tends to avoid large streams and lives mainly near the 2nd through 4th order tributaries of rivers, usually no more than 1-1.5 m in width and about 20-30 cm in depth in spring. Such brooks flow in dense shade and their banks are covered with dense arboreal and herbaceous vegetation. Summer water temperatures are about 12ºC, and increase from a brook's source to its mouth. Postmetamorphic salamanders live in very wet conditions on stream banks in places with seepages, under stones, logs, snags, and roots. They also occur in the forest at long distances from the water, up to 200-300 m. The larvae are more frequent in the headwaters of streams, probably because salamanders reproduce there. Sometimes the larvae drift downstream and occur in shallow swampy puddles. Breeding occurs in the late spring - summer. Mating occurs on land or in water. The spike on the male's tailbase probably has no special role in courtship and amplexus. The interval from copulation to egg deposition varies from 3 days to 2 months. The only clutch found in nature contained 92 eggs and was deposited on leaves –which we also observed during our trip- and other submerged plants in a small hole in a stream bottom. Probably, newly hatched larvae stay in their hatching places before the next spring and then appear in streams. The development from fertilized egg to completed metamorphosis seems to take about 2 to 4 years. Metamorphosis evidently occurs throughout the summer. Larvae prey on stream invertebrates, Gammaridae, and larval insects. Adults eat mainly terrestrial invertebrates: Oniscidae, Arachnoidea and insects (Coleoptera, larval Diptera, etc.).

During our trip, we observed some general habitat alteration and loss stemning from road broadenning activities. These modifications or deforestation, or logging related activities may affect seriously the declining of the population here too like around Kackar Mts..

References: 1. Göçmen, B. (Unpub. results). The results of herpetological trips. 2. Budak, A. & Göçmen, B. (2005). Herpetology. Ege Üniversitesi Fen Fakültesi Kitaplar Serisi, No. 194, Ege Üniversitesi Basimevi, Bornova-Izmir, 226 pp. [2nd Edition, 2008]. 3. Baran, I. & Atatür, M. K. (1998). Turkish Herpetofauna (Amphibians & Reptiles). Ministry of Environment, Ankara. 214 pp.

Author Bayram GÖÇMEN
Created on Monday 27 July 2009
Posted on Thursday 20 January 2011
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