Uncategorized

Pyrenean Brook Salamander (Calotriton asper)

Pyrenean Brook Salamander
Pyrenean Brook Salamander – photo by DAGOR53

nearthreatened

Common English Names: Pyrenean Brook Salamander and Pyrenean Mountain Newt
Scientific Name: Calotriton asper
Family: Salamandridae
Locations: Andorra, France, and Spain
Female Size: 4.3 – 5.5 inches (110 – 40 mm)
Male Size: 4.1 – 4.7 inches (105 – 120 mm)

The Pyrenean Brook Salamander is found only in the Pyrenean range in Europe. It is found near oxygen rich mountain streams, ponds, and lakes. They breed in these waters once the snow melts. Males can actively search out females or they will raise their tail to almost a near vertical position as a signal to the females. The males can hold this position for hours.

After mating, the females lay 20 to 30 eggs in the crevices and cracks of water bodies. The larval stage varies in length due to the elevation they are at. At lower elevations, the larval stage takes a little over a year. The larval stage can last two years at higher elevations. Sometimes in the Valle de Arán, they never undergo metamorphism and are neotenic, retaining their larval characteristics throughout their life.

While the Pyrenean Brook Salamander is only rated as Near Threatened by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list, their populations are declining and they could become endangered if the trend isn’t stopped. Non-native trouts have been introduced into the streams that they live in for fishing purposes. These trouts feed on the salamanders. Humans have also dammed off some of the streams they live in and have built roads through them. Campers have polluted the streams that the salamanders live in.

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Plains Leopard Frog (Lithobates blairi)

plains leopard frog
photo by Don Becker

least concern
Common Name: Plains Leopard Frog or Blair’s Leopard Frog
Scientific Name: Lithobates blairi
Family: Ranidae – True Frog Family
Locations: United States – Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Texas
Size: 4.3 inches

Mating behavior of the Plains Leopard Frog is pretty normal for a member of the True Frog family. Breeding for the frog takes place between February to October depending on locality. Males will call from the shallows of a wide variety of water bodies including rivers, streams, marshes, ponds, and ditches. Once the female frog selects a mate,  they will embrace and start to lay eggs. The females can lay between 4,000–6,500 eggs. Eggs can hatch in a few days but up to three weeks. The tadpoles take a few months to undergo metamorphism but some tadpoles will even overwinter and complete their metamorphism in Spring.

The species epiphet, Blairi, and one of the common names Blair’s Leopard Frog are named after Dr. William Franklin Blair, a famous zoologist.

The Plains Leopard Frog numbers have been on a decline. In areas with an introduced populations of the American Bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianus) in Colorado, the frogs have become scarce. They are listed as a Special Species of Concern in Indiana. In Arizona, they are a protected species were it is illegal to  harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect this animal or to attempt to engage in any such conduct..

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Spring Salamander (Gyrinophilus porphyriticus)

spring.salamander
photo by John D. Wilson

least concern
Common Name: Spring Salamander
Scientific Name: Gyrinophilus porphyriticus
Family: Plethodontidae – Lungless Salamanders
Locations: Canada and the United States
US Locations: Alabama, Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Mississippi, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Vermont, and West Virginia
Size: 9 inches record length, generally only 7 inches

The Spring Salamander is found in and around cool mountain springs, creeks, and seeps. They can spend time under logs, stones, and leaves near the springs. They are noted as being hard to find even with their wide range. Few egg masses from the Spring Salamander has been found because the eggs are laid in underground recesses in the springs.

 

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Cave Salamander (Eurycea lucifuga)

cave_salamander
photo by Todd Pierson

least concern
Common Name: Cave Salamander
Scientific Name: Eurycea lucifuga
Family: Plethodontidae – Lungless Salamanders
Locations: United States – Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia
Size: 8 inches total length

The Cave Salamander can be found in and around caves, hence the name. They are also found along springs and streams. They primarily in the limestone regions. Cave Salamanders are adept climbers and climb the walls of caves and limestone rocks.

While the salamander is listed as Least Concern by the Internal Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), its populations in certain states are dwindling. In Ohio, Kansas, and Mississippi, they are listed as an Endangered species. In West Virginia, they are listed as Rare. The main threat is habitat destruction due to their specific habitat requirements.

 

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Great Basin Spadefoot Toad (Spea intermontana)

Spadefoot_pic
Great Basin Spadefoot by the NPS

least concern
Common Name: Great Basin Spadefoot Toad
Scientific Name: Spea intermontana
Family: Scaphiopodidae – American Spadefoot Toad Family
Locations: Canada and the United States
US Locations: Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming
Size: 2.5 inches

The Great Basin Spadefoot Toad is found in the western United States and southwestern Canada. They live primarily in arid, desert regions where rain is hard to come by, but they have adaptations to overcome these hostiles environments. The Great Basin Spadefoot Toads are explosive breeder. Once the spring rain falls, the males migrate to ponds and start calling. After mating, the eggs hatch in 2-4 days. These tadpoles can be herbivorous or carnivorous, depending on the locality. The tadpoles take over a month to fully undergo metamorphosis.

Like all Spadefoot Toads, the Great Basin Spadefoot Toad is great at burrowing. They have powerful hind legs that have keratonized sheaths on their rear feet. This helps them to burrow deep in the ground to protect themselves from their arid environment.

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Cope’s Gray Tree Frog (Hyla chrysoscelis)

GrayTreeFrog
least concern
Common Name: Cope’s Gray Tree Frog
Scientific Name: Hyla chrysoscelis
Family: Hylidae
Locations: United States and Canada
US Locations: Alabama, Arkansas, Washington D.C., Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nebraska, New Jersey, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin, and West Virginia
Size: 2 inches

The Cope’s Gray Tree Frog is almost identical to the Eastern Gray Tree Frog (Hyla versicolor) besides their calls and chromosome count. The Cope’s Gray Tree Frog is diploid while the Eastern Gray Tree Frog is tetraploid.

The frog is named after Edward Drinker Cope, the man who first described the frog to western science. Edward Drinker Cope described a lot of different species, over a thousand living and dead species. While the frog is named the Gray Tree Frog, it can also be green in color.

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Woodhouse’s Toad (Anaxyrus woodhousii)

photo by LA Dawson

leastconcern
Common Name: Woodhouse’s Toad
Scientific Name: Anaxyrus woodhousii
Family: Bufonidae – True Toad family
Locations: Mexico and the United States
US Locations: Arizona, California, Colorado, Iowa, Idaho, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Mexico, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming
Size: 5 inches max

The Woodhouse’s Toad is found in the western United States and down barely into Mexico. It is named after Samuel Washington Woodhouse, a physician and naturalist. There are three different sub species of Woodhouse’s Toad that some scientists recognize.

  • Southwestern Woodhouse’s Toad – Anaxyrus woodhousii australis
  • East Texas toad – Anaxyrus woodhousii velatu
  • Rocky Mountain toad – Anaxyrus woodhousii woodhousii
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Wyoming Toad (Anaxyrus baxteri)

photo by Sara Armstrong

EW
Common Name: Wyoming Toad, Baxter’s Toad
Scientific Name: Anaxyrus baxteri
Family: Bufonidae
Location: United States – Wyoming
Size: 2 inches

The Wyoming Frog is a federally listed endangered species in the US. It is only found in the Mortenson Lake National Wildlife Refuge in Wyoming and in captivity. The number of Wyoming Toads started a sharp decline in the 1970s until there was under 50 individuals left. It is believed that Chytrid fungus, a fungal infection that suffocates the toad, maybe the reason behind the decline. Other possible reasons for the decline including habitat destruction, toxic pesticide use, and climate change. Luckily, some toads were brought into captivity to survive and reproduce but because of the fungus still out in its habitat, the toad population hasn’t been able to bounce back. The future of the toad depends on solving the Chytrid fungus crisis.

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Leatherback Sea Turtle (Dermochelys coriacea)

leatherback.jpg
photo by the USFW

vulnerable
Common Name: Leatherback Sea Turtle
Scientific Name:  Dermochelys coriacea
Family: Dermochelyidae

The Leatherback Sea Turtle is the largest living species of turtle in the world, weighing up to 1,500 pounds and over 7 feet long. It is also the only extant species in the family Dermochelyidae. The turtle is named after its unusual leathery shell.

The Leatherback Sea Turtle is in trouble of becoming extinct. Some of the threats to them are plastic and chemical pollution, becoming bycatch of fisherman, over-harvesting of their eggs, and climate change. We need to tackle these issues to secure a future for the turtle.

New Species, Uncategorized

New Siren Species: the Reticulated Siren

reticulatedsiren.jpg
photo by Pierson Hill

A new species of siren was discovered in southern Alabama and the Florida panhandle. There were rumors about an undiscovered large, spotted salamander that lived in the area. A few samples of the species was recovered back in the 1970s but people thought they were just bizarre Greater Sirens (Siren lacertina). The species was re-discovered by former Herper of the Week, David Steen Ph.D., when he was trapping turtles on a military base in Florida. He noticed that it was different from other sirens he has seen. Steen and other researchers (Sean P Graham, Richard Kline, Crystal Kelehear) performed genetic tests and found it to be its own species. They named it the Reticulated Siren because of its color pattern.

One of the interesting facts about the new Siren is its size. Its a large salamander, with average size of the specimens collected being around a foot long but some were two feet long. It is one of the largest animals discovered in North America in over a hundred years. You are probably wondering how a two foot long salamander hasn’t been discovered until now. Sirens are a fully aquatic species and live in murky waters, making them hard to see. With the discovery of the Reticulated Siren, the Siren Family, Sirenidae, there are now 5 different species but who knows? There could be even more hiding.

You can read the full article here – https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0207460