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Ambystomatids are a group of salamanders living in North America and are known collectively as Mole Salamanders because most of them live underground for the majority of their adult life. Some of the more well known members of this group are the Tiger Salamander and Mexico’s Axolotl which is known for not metamorphosizing. This paedomorphic state is actually not that uncommon among the ambystomatids as the common Mole Salamander can be found in a paedomorphic state retaining much of its larval characteristics but being sexually mature. However, all of these individuals that don’t metamorphosize can be induced to do so, including the Axolotl. This is not nearly the strangest aspect of this clade of salamanders though, it gets a hell of a lot stranger with a group of species around the Great Lakes. 


My sexy hand holding an adult paedomorphic Mole Salamander(ambystoma talpoideum) and some dumbass fucking bug 

The laterale-jeffersoniaum complex of mole salamanders includes within it numerous populations of unisexual salamanders that have are hybrids of up to 4 different species. Their method of reproduction is also unique from other unisexual tetrapods, as these salamanders all share an identical cytoplasm make up from a female ancestor dating back anywhere from 2.4 to 3.9 mya, but steal the genomes from males of the other relative salamander species in the area and incorporate their genome into their all female offspring. This has created a number of different combinations of diploid and polyploid unisexual ambystomids living around the Great Lakes, which were considered distinct species based on their morphologies(such as the Silvery salamander) until herpetologists realized that these fuckers aren’t really species but just a fucking car accident of genetic material that seems to be quite adaptive compared to other unisexual organisms which usually just have clonal offspring (which some of these ambystomids do as well after utilizing sperm to stimulate cell division without actually incorporating the male's genetic information at all). This is thought to explain the relatively old origin of these populations. This mode of "stealing" genomes has been termed kleptogenesis. 


Here's a phylogeny of this complex, and what's weird is that the unisexual ambystomids do not really incorporate the genome from the most closely related species the Streamside Salamander



LL and JJ represent good species, the laterale and jeffersonianum, but you also have some examples of some polyploid unisexual salamanders here that have combinations of the genomes from each of these species. They can also include genomes from texanum and tigrium. 




I still don't understand it either. 

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I helped out with some graduate research last summer that was doing work with a few members of the genus and their life cyles.  They had obtained a few individuals from all those they were growing that were of this paedomorphic state.  While they were removed from the research, they were kept as something of novelties. If I recall right, they did try and get them to morph into proper adults, but without success.  Pretty sure one of them was leucistic too.

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17 minutes ago, Collimatrix said:

What does the algae do?

I believe it takes up excess carbon dioxide and provides oxygen in the often oxygen poor environments that these salamanders are found in.

Here's a paper that goes a little more in depth about the relationship. 



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