Pacific treefrogs; Photo by Mike BenardAlthough the herpetofauna of Quail Ridge is well documented, very little herpetological research has been conducted to date, leaving large areas open to ambitious investigators. Coreigh Greene (UCD Graduate Group of Ecology) investigated the influence of social interactions and density dependence on habitat preference in western fence lizards, using animals from Quail Ridge, among other sites. Mike Benard (UCD Population Biology Graduate Group) has been studying local adaptation of Pacific treefrogs (Hyla regilla) to different larval environments, as well as the ability of adults to use and move between temporary ponds at Quail Ridge, and the resulting population genetic structure in this species; similar work on other pond-breeding amphibians, such as the California newt (Taricha torosa), would be a useful addition to understanding the herpetofauna of the region. But much more remains. We have alluded to the potential role of Quail Ridge in tracking responses to climate change and exotic species. Some other specific ideas follow.

Western Rattlesnake; Photo by Mike Benard

Western rattlesnakes are important predators in many ecosystems. They have been studied at a number of localities, but none in the Coast Range. Quail Ridge offers a large area for radiotelemetry and other studies on this predator, providing important ecological parallels to studies on other subspecies and in other habitats.

Plethodontid (lungless) salamanders are much more diverse in the eastern United States than in the west62; with over 250 species59, 57 they are the largest family of salamanders, and have been central to much ecological research on salamanders (e.g., Hairston60). Most ecological work, however, has been pursued in the eastern half of the country, where they have been documented to play important roles in forest ecosystems. Is that role similar for western taxa? Although the California salamander fauna is not highly diverse (ca. 25 species62), some species comprise ideal taxa for comparative California Newts; Photo by Mike Benardwork to research conducted in the more diverse fauna of the eastern states. An exception to this general dearth of research is Stebbins’classic work on Ensatina67. Quail Ridge hosts populations of the California slender salamander (Batrachoseps attenuatus). In spite of their potential role in this and other ecosystems, we remain woefully ignorant of the basic ecology of this entire genus.

Other common taxa at Quail Ridge that are in need both of basic research as well as broader studies on local adaptation, predator-prey relations, and the influence of local and regional features on demographic and genetic structure include western skink (Eumeces skiltonianus) and the southern alligator lizard (Elgaria multicarinatus).


Photo Credits: Title, Treefrog, Mating Treefrogs, Rattlesnake, and Newts (Mike Benard). For more pictures see:

This page last updated: June 23, 2005  

Contact: Dr. Virginia Boucher
John Muir Institute of the Environment
109 The Barn, University of California, Davis, CA 95616
Phone: 530-752-6949; email:

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