UCARE: Undergraduate Creative Activities & Research Experiences


UCARE Research Products

Date of this Version

Spring 4-14-2020

Document Type



Poster presentation, UCARE Research Fair, Spring 2020, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


Copyright 2020 by the authors.


There has been some discussion in herpetoculture about adding calcium supplements to the diets of salamanders. Adding calcium supplements to a salamander’s diet has been indicated to contribute to blindness. Calcium supplements are usually given to reptiles and amphibians to prevent dietary deficiencies, particularly metabolic bone disease. The link between lack of calcium and metabolic bone disease is well established in reptiles, but is lacking significant research with regards to amphibians. Within the eye of a salamander, there are calcium channels that mediate photosynthetic rods in the absence of light. With a calcium rich diet, it is believed that these rods would malfunction and eventually lead to blindness after a period of time. This study will examine if there is a correlation between high amounts of calcium carbonate and blindness of Western Tiger Salamanders[Ambystoma mavortium]. This study will strive to obtain data to test the hypothesis that a calcium supplement in the diet of a Western Tiger Salamander[Ambystoma mavortium] is harmful to their eyesight. This investigation is important to the herpetoculture because it would improve the quality of life for captive salamanders. By having significant evidence to support or reject this hypothesis, owners and zookeepers can have a better understanding of the health of salamanders. Some Salamanders require an environment that is difficult to maintain and by knowing more requirements to their overall heath, we can better troubleshoot why salamanders are having difficulty thriving. To test this hypothesis, I will obtain 20 lab raised salamanders from native egg stock. A control group of 10 salamanders will not receive a dusted calcium supplement, but the test group of the other 10 salamanders will receive the calcium supplement on all meals. Both groups will be held in the exact same conditions, in identical habitats, and all environmental parameters will be held constant throughout the study. To collect data for this test, I will compare the eyesight and overall health between the test and control groups.To analyze this data, I will scrutinize and evaluate visual function of the salamanders. I will examine the results with statistical avenues to determine if my findings accept or reject the hypothesis.