Dorsal Body Pigmentation and Sexual Dimorphism in the Marbled Salamander (Ambystoma Opacum)

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Marbled salamanders (Ambystoma opacum) have individually variable dorsal pigmentation patterns. But it is unclear whether or not dorsal pigmentation is associated with variables such as body size and sex. In this study, we test the hypothesis that the body size variables and sex are important predictors of the coverage of dorsal body white pigmentation in adult marbled salamanders. We evaluate the degree of sexual dimorphism in several body traits, including the dorsal body white pigmentation, using univariate and multivariate methods, and analyze the sex-related difference in pigmentation asymmetry. The General Linear Model (GLM) predicts a significant main effect of sex and a significant interaction between sex and dorsal body area (DBA), influencing the coverage of dorsal body white pigmentation. The interaction effect is greater in males than in females. We show significant sex-related differences in body size and shape. Eight morphometric traits reveal female-biased sexual size dimorphism, while males display a greater coverage of dorsal white pigmentation than females. Prominent female characteristics, compared to males, include a significantly heavier and longer body with a wider trunk, head, neck, shoulder and waist. These sex-specific differences suggest selection for a larger body size in females because of increased maternal reproductive success associated with larger body size. Additionally, females display greater pigmentation asymmetry than males, suggesting a significant sex-related disparity in asymmetric pigmentation. Potential ecological and developmental implications of the observed dimorphism are discussed. To our knowledge, this is the first study demonstrating an association of dorsal white pigmentation with dorsal body area and sex, including a significantly disproportionate pigmentation asymmetry between sexes, in adult marbled salamanders.