The evolution of competing species of terrestrial salamanders: niche partitioning or interference?

Nelson G. Hairston, Kiisa C. Nishikawa, Sarah L. Stenhouse

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


One of the central assumptions of evolutionary ecology is that interspecific competition is a potent evolutionary force acting on coexisting species. There are few animal species that provide an opportunity for an experimental analysis of the evolutionary consequences of the phenomenon. We have taken advantage of the fact that two species of terrestrial salamander, Plethodon glutinosus and P. jordani, have different altitudinal distributions on two mountain ranges in North Carolina. Field removal experiments showed that interspecfic competition was much stronger in the Great Smoky Mountains than in the Balsam Mountains, and transplant experiments between the two mountain ranges showed that neither species from the Balsam Mountains had a measurable effect on its congener in the Smokies, although both species from the Smokies had strong negative effects on the Balsam congeners. Other experiments were conducted on the behavioral and ecological changes that have (or have not) evolved in the two areas. Our studies show that increased interspecific interference was the major evolutionary response of these large Plethodon species to interspecific competition, and that partitioning of food or microhabitat was not involved.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)247-262
Number of pages16
JournalEvolutionary Ecology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1987


  • Aggression
  • North Carolina
  • Plethodon
  • altitudinal distribution
  • food interference
  • salamander

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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