by Greg Mayer
Carl Zimmer has a nice piece in today’s New York Times on studies of evolution-in-action in a variety of species in New York City. Researchers have found that the fragmentation of natural and even artificial habitats by urbanization has led to genetic isolation and differentiation, and also adaptation to the urban environment. For example, Jeff Levinton of SUNY Stony Brook has found that a worm in the Hudson near West Point evolved resistance to the toxic metal cadmium. Following a cleanup, the worms have reduced resistance, due to gene flow from surrounding populations that had not been exposed to cadmium.
This is a dusky salamander from Manhattan. They’re pretty small, less than a handful; about a spoonful, I suppose. John Kieran in his classic book thought it “the most common salamander within the city”. They’re known from the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island, but I know of no definite records for Long Island (which includes Brooklyn and Queens). Mike Klemens of the American Museum of Natural History did not find them in surveys of Central Park, so I was surprised to see they are holding on in other parts of Manhattan.
Bishop, S.C. 1941. The salamanders of New York. New York State Museum Bulletin 324:1-365.
Gibbs, J.P., A.R. Breisch, P.K. Ducey, G. Johnson, J.L. Behler and R.C. Bothner. 2007. The Amphibians and Reptiles of New York State. Oxford University Press, New York.
Kieran, J. 1959. A Natural History of New York City. Houghton Mifflin, Boston.
Klemens, M. 1982. Herpetofaunal Inventory of Central Park. MS report, American Museum of Natural History.