Salamanders will travel up to nine miles to find the perfect mate, according to a recent study conducted at Ohio State University.
Salamanders usually stay close to home when it comes to finding a mate, but sometimes they decide to venture away from home base. They travel an average of six miles, according to the study, and sometimes travel as far as nine miles.
“This is the first study to connect physiological factors – particularly how fast they get tired of walking – with genetics showing animal movement in the field,” said Robert Denton, lead author of the study.
Throughout the study, scientists looked at two types of mole salamanders: one that mates in a traditional way, and an all-female one that clones instead of mating. Researchers combined genetic details from Ohio salamanders in the wild with the distance a salamander could walk on a treadmill before getting tired.
The treadmill is built with plastic walls to make sure the animals – who often don’t walk perfectly straight – don’t fall. The salamanders, Denton said, were ready and willing to walk with a little poke in the butt.
The salamanders have great endurance, Denton added, and some of them could even walk for more than two hours without getting tired.
“That’s like a person lightly jogging for 75 miles before wearing out,” he said.
On the treadmill, the traditional mating salamanders were found to walk four times as long as the cloning ones. In the wild, the salamanders in search of a mate were found twice as far away from home as the female ones.
Over all, the genetics the researchers collected in the wild matched up with the facts the treadmills provided.
Denton said the best explanation for why the mating salamanders travel so much farther is probably because they have to: one must find a mate in order to survive and reproduce.
“Perhaps the more interesting question is why the all-female salamanders don’t go very far, and we think that has to do with the physiological costs of not having sex,” he said. “Essentially, not mixing up your genomic material often enough likely causes some problems for genes that you need to make energy.”
Traveling this far to find a mate could very well be a scary thing for the salamanders, Denton said. They could get eaten or dry up on the journey.
Salamanders spend most of their time hiding, Denton added, and they only come out for a few days in the spring.
“It was surprising to us that they go really long distances – four, five, six miles – from home,” he said.
Credit: Earth.com author Laura Porecca