New Species of Siren – Seepage Siren (Siren sphagnicola)

photo by: Fedler et al., doi: 10.11646/zootaxa.5258.4.1.

A new species of siren has been described from coastal southeastern United States. Sirens are a type of aquatic salamanders that live a highly secretive lifestyle. They spend most of their time at the bottom of muddy ponds, swamps, and streams, making them hard to observe. The new species was named after the seepage fed creeks that they live in.

The Seepage Siren is the smallest of the genus Siren, only reaching 7.8 inches (20 cm) long while some sirens can reach over 3 feet long. Besides being smaller than the other sirens, it also has 30 – 33 costal grooves and a gray base color.

You can read the full paper here.


Barton Springs Salamander (Eurycea sosorum)

photo by Ryan Hagerty/USFWS

Common Name: Barton Springs Salamander
Scientific Name: Eurycea sosorum
Family: Plethodontidae – Lungless Salamander family
Locations: United States – Texas
Size: 0.5 – 3 inches (1.27 – 7.62 cm)

The Barton Springs Salamander is a federally endangered species and listed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List as Vulnerable to Extinction. They were thought to be found only in the outflows of the Barton Springs in Austin, Texas but a population has been found near Drippings Spring. They are listed due to their small habitat that is sensitive to environmental pollutants. There is a popular naturalistic swimming pool in the Barton Springs that houses the salamanders. While swimming in the water is said not to bother the salamanders, the cleaning of the pool can kill them. The Austin Blind Salamander (Eurycea waterlooensis), another endangered salamander, also lives in the Barton Springs.

Like all members of the family Plethodontidae, the Barton Springs Salamander has no lungs. Unlike most members of the family, the salamander is neotenic, meaning it keeps its larval characteristics, most notably, the gills throughout its life. They are a fully aquatic species of salamander, never leaving the water. The salamanders are found usually under rocks or buried down in the gravel, from several inches to 15 feet deep!

Other Amphibian of the Week

Frosted Flatwoods Salamander (Ambystoma cingulatum)

Frosted Flatwoods Salamander
photo by Todd Pierson

Common Name: Frosted Flatwoods Salamander
Scientific Name: Ambystoma cingulatum
Family: Ambystomatidae – Mole Salamander family
Locations: United States – Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina
Size: 3.5 – 5.3 inches (9-13.5 cm)

The Frosted Flatwoods Salamander is a medium sized salamander found in the coastal plains of the southeast United States. They are listed as a federally threatened species by the federal government. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List categorizes the salamander as Vulnerable to Extinction. The longleaf pine-wiregrass flatwoods that the salamanders love our being cut down. To keep these salamanders from becoming extinct, we need to protect their habitats better.

All the Flatwoods Salamanders used to be one species before they were split apart, leaving the Frosted Flatwoods Salamander and the Reticulated Flatwoods Salamander (Ambystoma bishopi) as distinct species. The Reticulated Flatwoods Salamander is a federally endangered species.

photo by Todd Pierson

The Frosted Flatwoods Salamander is a fossorial species of salamander, spending most of their life underground or in burrows. They come to the surface to travel to wetlands to breed, some even traveling a mile away. Breeding takes place during the fall to winter (October to February) for the salamander. After mating, the females lay their eggs in a depression near a body of water. Once a rain starts, the eggs will hatch.

Other Amphibian of the Week

Red Hills Salamander (Phaeognathus hubrichti)

Red Hills Salamander - Phaeognathus hubrichti
photo by  John P. Clare
Conservation status is Endangered

Common Name: Red Hills Salamander
Scientific Name: Phaeognathus hubrichti
Family: Plethodontidae – Lungless Salamander family
Locations: United States – Alabama
Size:  10.5 inches (27 cm)

The Red Hills Salamander is the state amphibian of Alabama, the only state it can be found in. More specifically, it lives in the Red Hills region of southern Alabama, hence the name. They belong to the family Plethodontidae, the lungless salamanders, so they lack lungs. They stay underground most of their life, making them a fossorial species of salamander. Most of their life history is unknown due to them being fossorial.

What is known is that the Red Hills Salamander does not breed in water, but in their burrows. No mating displays or actually breeding as been observed. Females lay around 6-16 eggs at a time. The eggs hatch in around two months into tiny salamanders.

While the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List categorizes the salamander as endangered, the federal United States government only lists them as threatened. Because of this, most of their land is privately owned by paper companies, that clear cut their habitat for the wood. Luckily, the Nature Conservatory bought almost 2,000 acres of land to protect the salamanders.

Other Amphibian of the Week

Misty Salamander (Hynobius nebulosus)

photo by Henk Wallays

least concern
Common Name: Misty Salamander, Clouded Salamander
Scientific Name: Hynobius nebulosus
Family: Hynobiidae – Asiatic Salamander Family
Location: Japan
Size: 5 inches total length

The Misty Salamander is found only in Japan on the islands of Honshu, Shikoku, Kyushu, and on Ikishima. During the mating season, males stake out territory and will defend them from other males. This defense includes biting and tail wagging. If a male salamander can’t get a decent territory, they will become what scientists call a sneaker. These sneakers will wait around a different males territory until the other male is mating with female. The sneaker tries to sneak in and and fertilize the female’s eggs.

Other Amphibian of the Week

Bell’s False Brook Salamander (Isthmura bellii)

Bell's False Brook Salamander
photo by Sean Michael Rovito

Common Name: Bell’s False Brook Salamander or Bell’s Salamander
Scientific Name: Isthmura bellii
Family: Plethodontidae – Lungless Salamanders
Location: Mexico
Size: 14 inches (36 cm)

The Bell’s False Brook Salamander is the largest salamander in the family Plethodontidae – the Lungless Salamander. It is also one of the largest terrestrial salamanders in the world. They live mostly under logs and rocks in pine and pine oak forests. Surprisingly, the salamanders also lives in arid, tropical scrub land. These guys only come out at night to eat, making them nocturnal.

The salamander was originally placed in the genus Pseudoeurycea, the False Brook Salamanders. Pseudo = false, eurycea = brook. They were moved to a new genus Isthmura due to boring taxonomy stuff. Due to changing their genus, the salamanders can just be called Bell’s Salamander.

Once, researchers recognized two subspecies of the salamander. P. b. sierraoccidentalis is found along the border of the states of Sonora and Chihuahua in the northwestern part of Mexico. The other subspecies, P. b. bellii, is found in central Mexico and further down. These subspecies have now been elevated to full species status.

The Bell’s False Brook Salamander is a highly terrestrial species, not even needing water for reproduction! The females lay up to 20 eggs directly on land. The eggs eventually hatch and mini salamanders come out. They are a direct developing species, skipping the aquatic larvae stage.

Bell's False Brook Salamander
photo by Sean Michael Rovito

Bell’s False Brook Salamander Conservation

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List categorizes the Bell’s False Brook Salamander as Vulnerable to Extinction. Their habitat is being cut down to make room for farms and cities. Also logging is happening in their habitat which disturbs the salamanders. Better protections are needed to help save the species.

Other Amphibian of the Week

Northern Spectacled Salamander (Salamandrina perspicillata)

photo by Luca Tringali

Common Name: Northern Spectacled Salamander
Scientific Name: Salamandrina perspicillata
Family: Salamandridae
Location: Italy
Size: 1.3 inches for Snout to Vent, 3.3 inches for Total Length

The Northern and Southern Spectacled Salamander used to be only one species until they were split in 2005 due to genetics. The Northern Spectacled Salamander lives in the northern and central parts of Italy while the Southern Spectacled Salamander lives in the southern part of Italy.

The Northern Spectacled Salamander is a terrestrial species of salamander that is active during the night. They can live up to 15 years. When a predator approaches the salamander, they curl into a ring to show off their red bellies. This shows off that they are not good to eat.