Thermal cues drive plasticity of desiccation resistance in montane salamanders with implications for climate change
Organisms rely upon external cues to avoid detrimental conditions during environmental change. Rapid water loss, or desiccation, is a universal threat for terrestrial plants and animals, especially under climate change, but the cues that facilitate plastic responses to avoid desiccation are unclear. We integrate acclimation experiments with gene expression analyses to identify the cues that regulate resistance to water loss at the physiological and regulatory level in a montane salamander (Plethodon metcalfi). Here we show that temperature is an important cue for developing a desiccation-resistant phenotype and might act as a reliable cue for organisms across the globe. Gene expression analyses consistently identify regulation of stem cell differentiation and embryonic development of vasculature. The temperature-sensitive blood vessel development suggests that salamanders regulate water loss through the regression and regeneration of capillary beds in the skin, indicating that tissue regeneration may be used for physiological purposes beyond replacing lost limbs.