Watch ‘skydiving’ salamanders parachuting from redwood trees in California

A study by the University of California, Berkeley, found that the salamanders that live high in coastal redwoods in California have some great aerial skills.

The wandering salamander, or Aneides Vagrans, has evolved in its ability to glide, parachute and move through the air from tree to tree, in a similar way to flying squirrels, geckos and frogs, according to the paper, published Monday in Current. biology.

Experts believe that the amphibians, who call the towering coastal redwoods of Northern California home, have adapted their dangerously high habitats with these skills that will come in handy if they fall. It also allows them to stay off the ground and avoid predators.

University of South Florida doctoral candidate Christian Brown and first author of the joint paper with UC Berkeley researchers said in a press release that salamanders can flip and flip themselves and “pump their tail up and down to perform horizontal maneuvers.”

“During their parachuting, they have a fantastic amount of maneuverable control,” he said.

The wandering salamander is well known to scientists, Brown said Sunday, but unless you live among coastal redwood forests in the north of the state, you’re unlikely to encounter one “because of their limited range and canopy stature.”

A study by the University of California at Berkeley finds that the salamander that lives in California’s coastal red forests has some impressive aerial skills. The wandering salamander has evolved in its ability to glide, parachute and move through the air from tree to tree. The creature is shown in a video frame from the University of California, Berkeley.

University of California at Berkeley

“Before this research, weather behaviors had not been described in any species of salamander,” he told The Chronicle Sunday in an email. “Aerial calendaring, skydiving, gliding, and maneuvering are all newly reported behaviors of the lungless arboreal salamander.”

Brown and UC Berkeley researchers put this creature’s amazing skills to the test by creating a wind tunnel and shoving salamanders off perch to see how they would react. University of California, Berkeley graduate student Eric Satie and Brown compared the behavior of the wandering salamander with that of three other northern California species.

They found that the wandering salamander was the most skilled at “parachuting.”

“What surprised me when I first watched the videos is that they (the salamanders) are so smooth—there’s no interruption or noise in their movements; they’re absolutely browsing,” Robert Dudley, a professor of integrative biology at UC Berkeley and an expert on animal flight, said in the press release. Up in the air”.

He added that this behavior is “deeply ingrained in their motor response” and that it is not “passive parachute jumping,” but actually sliding.

In comparison, a species known as the arboreal salamander (A. lugubris), which lives in shorter trees, was the best at maneuvering through the air. Two other species of salamander—the forest floor-dwelling Ensatina echholzi, and A. flavipunctatus, which occasionally climbs trees—”climb ineffectively” in the wind tunnel, not descending like the other species, according to the press release.

Close-up of a wandering salamander, or Aneides Vagrans, on a tree.  UC Berkeley researchers used a wind tunnel to document how species in Northern California glide and parachute into the air.

Close-up of a wandering salamander, or Aneides Vagrans, on a tree. UC Berkeley researchers used a wind tunnel to document how species in Northern California glide and parachute into the air.

Submitted by University of California at Berkeley

There are hundreds of salamander species around the world that can climb trees and cave walls and live at high places, Brown said, so it’s possible that other species are able to control their bodies when they fall.

The researchers used a high-speed video camera to photograph the salamander, and analyzed the footage to see how they would function in their natural environment. The statement said the amphibians fell at a steep angle, but by looking at the spacing between the twigs and redwood crowns, Brown and Dudley noted that this would usually be enough for them to reach a branch or trunk without collapsing to the ground. They found that the “skydiving” movement would reduce the velocity of free fall by about 10%.

Brown encountered these salamanders while working in Humboldt and Del Norte counties with university and nonprofit conservation groups identifying and tracking animals that live in the redwood canopy, primarily in old-growth forest 150 feet off the ground.

He said that when he picked them up, they would instantly jump out of his hands, which was especially interesting considering how high they were.

Brown said that the fact that an “attractive salamander” can glide, parachute and move through the air over redwoods is remarkable in itself. It’s also very important, he said, for people to learn and appreciate the endangered world the salamanders live in.

“I would like this discovery to highlight the fact that while significant progress has been made in protecting and restoring Earth’s redwood forests, scientists have barely scratched the surface in studying the redwood canopy’s ecosystem and the unique fauna through which evolutionary time shaped.” “With climate changing at an unprecedented rate, it is critical that we collect more data on animals like wandering salamanders so that we can better understand, protect and conserve this delicate ecosystem.”

Kelly Huang is a staff writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: kellie.hwang@sfchronicle.com Twitter: Tweet embed

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