Document Type

Paper- Restricted to Campus Access

Publication Date


Faculty Mentor

Cory Straub


The red-back salamander (Plethodon cinereus) is polymorphic with two common color forms, striped and unstriped. Previous research suggests the unstriped morphs are more fossorial and spend more time in underground refuges than the striped morphs. We hypothesized that the unstriped morph will morphologically have more costal grooves, allowing them to bury underground more easily, as well as behaviorally show shorter latency to seek refuge compared to the striped morph. To test this hypothesis, we collected over 60 salamanders, half of each morph. We conducted a behavioral assay in the lab in which salamanders were placed in arenas with access to surface and subsurface refuges. Latency and time in refuge were recorded, and no differences were observed between the two color morphs. Using the same population of salamanders, we then counted the number of costal grooves of each individual. We observed a greater proportion of unstriped salamanders with 19 costal grooves, supporting our hypothesis. Further study of the behavioral and morphological differences between the unstriped and striped morphs is needed to better understand how the polymorphism is maintained within P. cinereus.


Presented as part of the Ursinus College Celebration of Student Achievement (CoSA) held April 24, 2024.

The downloadable file is a poster.


Available to Ursinus community only.