Limb Regeneration in Appalachian Salamanders in Response to Climate Change

Several different kinds of species on our planet have incredible capabilities that allow them to adjust and evolve to remain suitable for specific environments and conditions. One such species is the Appalachian Salamander. These amphibians have the impressive ability to regenerate fully functional limbs in response to amputation. Like most mammals, salamanders contain macrophage cells, which play a vital role in the immune system response to injury. These cells are responsible for engulfing and digesting pathogens and/or infectious particles, and exhibit signs of healing in the forms of inflammation and anti-inflammation. When researchers conducted experiments on how salamanders are able to regenerate fully functional limbs, they found that the animals rely on macrophages in order for this superhero-like ability to take place. According to an article by LiveScience, “Signals of inflammation were detected at the wound sites within one day of the amputations. Unexpectedly, anti-inflammatory signals, which normally arrive later in mammals recovering from injury, were also present at that time.” This goes on to show that the salamander’s immune system is able to respond to injury, in this case amputation, at much higher and rapid rates than normal mammals.

Given that salamanders have this fascinating ability to restore tissues, muscles, bones, nerves, and blood vessels to recreate new limbs, researchers from Clemson University tested this power in response to changes in temperatures and climates. Salamanders do not have lungs, so they breathe through their skin, making a moist environment an essential feature to the amphibian’s survival. Knowing such information, the researchers then went on to conclude that the Appalachian salamanders use temperature rather than humidity to anticipate changes in their environment. Salamanders are constantly facing the fatal risk of drying out, and further research is being conducted to show that they are able to tolerate dehydration by regulating water loss through physiological changes.

Researchers from the University of California, Berkeley decided to test salamanders’ abilities to acclimate to certain conditions by collecting 150 of them from the mountains near Highland, North Carolina, and measuring how quickly they dried out under certain conditions in a laboratory setting. Within this particular experiment, researchers were also able to reveal a suitable amount of information about the effects of temperature increases on salamanders’ blood vessels; they found that as temperatures increased, the amphibians were able to break down and rebuild blood vessel networks in their skin. With a central focus on how these amphibians are able to regenerate specific types of body parts, in this case blood vessels, researchers might be able to understand the overall process of regeneration better. As this is a recent discovery, researchers continue to work towards coming to a conclusion on how genetically adaptable animals are to changes in the future climate.

The information that I gathered from this topic relates to concepts that we have learned in class about evolution and adaptation. Research has been conducted to show that Appalachian salamanders are able to adapt to specific environments and conditions through the regeneration of their limbs. As populations of these amphibians continue to rise, researchers are also able to determine that they will become even more adaptive to specific conditions over time. Overall, these sorts of discoveries open more windows to our understanding of evolutionary adaptation and how particular attributes of species aid in this growth.


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Biology Teacher

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