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Cannibalistic Salamander Larval

Comments:  Nature photographers take note, always be ready for that one in a million shot.  I had taken some the above larval home for close up pictures and those who were waiting their turn must have felt I was a bad host for not providing them something to snack on, as one is putting the munch on another!  Not being ready for this shot, the camera was on a tripod, the quality of the shot is not great BUT I did get it.  It is not the only picture taken but it is the best blow up so far.  The background is the real problem as it is white and makes the foreground or salamanders too dark, so details are hard to make out but would come out if proper photo-manipulation was done.  And no it is not a shot of one on top of another.
So if you have some wildlife in the wings waiting their turn, have it set up so if need be, you can get a reasonable shot of them.  You never know.
Details:    One of the few (or maybe only), picture of a Jefferson morph eating another larval.  In the rest of the picture you can see that there were larval of all different sizes.  So there was not one egg laying event or the eggs were hatching at different times, for some reason.

From Dr. Howard Whiteman, Assistant Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, Murray State University, Murray, KY 42071

 Evolutionary Ecology of Cannibalistic Polyphenism

 I have also expanded my interest in environmentally induced polymorphisms by working on cannibalistic larval morphs in tiger salamanders.  In some populations, two larval morphologies are present: a "typical" morph and a "cannibal" morph.  Cannibal morphs differ from typical morphs in that they have an enlarged head and vomerine ridge ("teeth") which assist them when feeding on conspecifics.  This bizarre morphology is environmentally induced, with a higher frequency of cannibals produced at higher larval densities under laboratory conditions.  However, little is known about the environmental factors influencing the production of cannibal morphs in the field and the fitness consequences of becoming cannibalistic.

 Much of my cannibalism work has been performed in collaboration with a number of NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) students at the RMBL.  Together, we have found evidence for geographic variation in the mechanisms that produce cannibals (Sheen and Whiteman
1998) and discovered that large invertebrate prey indirectly affect the production of cannibals, by increasing the body size variation within both natural and laboratory populations (Whiteman et al. in review).  The latter study also suggests that the geographic variation found in Sheen and Whiteman
(1998) may be a result of regional differences in large prey types.  Future research is aimed at exploring the sex-specific payoffs of cannibalistic morphs in this species.

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