New Species

New Species of Salamander from North Carolina – Carolina Sandhills Salamander

Carolina Sandhills Salamander
Carolina Sandhills Salamander (Eurycea arenicola) – photo by L Todd Pusser

North Carolina is home to the most salamander species in the United States, a whopping 63 species! Now, thanks to researchers, the number moves up to 64! The southeastern United States, especially the Appalachian Mountain, is the salamander capitol of the world.

This discovery was 50 years in the making. An unusual salamander species was brought to the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. Originally, it was thought to be a weird Southern Two-lined Salamander (Eurycea cirrigera). More specimens were collected and curator Alvin Braswell thought it could be a new species. Sadly, he was too busy to pursue the research.

Southern Two-lined Salamander – photo by wikiuser Hargle

In comes Bryan Stuart, research curator of herpetology, who join the museum in 2008. Braswell told him of the salamander and wanted him to research it. Stuart was able to use next generation sequencer to determine that the species was new. He formally described the species as the Carolina Sandhills Salamander (Eurycea arenicola). The salamander is found near the seepages, springs and streams of the Sandhills of North Carolina. The Carolina Sandhills Salamander is red to orange in color. They don’t have a the dark band on its side like the Southern Two-lined Salamander do. These salamanders are pretty small ranging from 2.2 – 3.5 inches (56. -89.1 mm) from snout to tail.

You can read the full paper at https://bioone.org/journals/herpetologica/volume-76/issue-4/0018-0831-76.4.423/A-New-Two-Lined-Salamander-Eurycea-bislineata-Complex-from-the/10.1655/0018-0831-76.4.423.short

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Southern Torrent Salamander (Rhyacotriton variegatus)

Photo by James Bettaso, U.S. Fish & Wildlife service

Common Name: Southern Torrent Salamander
Scientific Name: Rhyacotriton variegatus
Family: Rhyacotritonidae – Torrent Salamander family
Locations: United States – California and Oregon
Size: Snout to Vent: 1.5 – 2.4 inches (41 – 62 mm) | Full Length: 3 – 4.5 inches ( 75 – 115 mm)

The Southern Torrent Salamander is found in and around cold, clears streams in old, growth conifer forests along the coast of Oregon and California. They have highly reduced lungs and use their skin to absorb oxygen. Cold water is high in oxygen, which makes it an ideal spot for the salamanders. The Southern Torrent Salamanders are threatened by the clear cutting of old growth forests and the draining of springs and seeps.

The reproductive season for the Southern Torrent Salamander is long, ranging from spring all the way to fall. All members of the family Rhyacotritonidae use internal fertilization. Peak egg laying time is in August and September. Only a few eggs are laid, between 4 to 16 eggs. The eggs take a long time to hatch, up to 8 months. The larval period is also long, as it can last more than 2 years.

Other Amphibian of the Week

Frosted Flatwoods Salamander (Ambystoma cingulatum)

frostwoods
photo by Todd Pierson

vulnerable
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 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.

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.

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California Giant Salamander (Dicamptodon ensatus)

california_giant_salamander
photo by William Flaxington
nearthreatened


Common Name: California Giant Salamander
Scientific Name: Dicamptodon ensatus
Family: Dicamptodontidae – Pacific Giant Salamander Family
Locations: United States – California
Size: 6.7 – 12 inches (17 – 30.48 cm) for terrestrial forms, 13 inches (33.02 cm) for aquatic

The California Giant Salamander is found in northwestern coastal forests of California with cold streams and ponds. They use these streams to breed during the spring with most of the egg laying in May. Breeding could also occur in the fall. Between 70 to 100 eggs are laid in the streams. Larvae salamanders can take up to 2 years to develop into terrestrial adults if they ever do. There has been observed neotenic populations of the California Giant Salamanders. These neotenic salamanders retain their larval characteristics such as their gills but are capable of reproduction. These guys are often larger than the terrestrial forms.

Arie van der Meijden

The California Giant Salamander is listed as as Near Threatened by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. The main threats to the survival of the salamander is the encroachment of humans on their small habitat. Their habitat is great for logging but logging is not good for the salamanders. Also towns are growing and need more land. They just build right over their habitat.

Other Amphibian of the Week

Misty Salamander (Hynobius nebulosus)

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA
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.

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Ringed Salamander (Ambystoma annulatum)

Ringed Salamander
photo by Peter Paplanus
least concern

Common Name: Ringed Salamander
Scientific Name: Ambystoma annulatum
Family: Ambystomatidae – Mole Salamander family
Locations: Arkansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma
Size: 10 inches (25.4 cm) max, generally 5.5  to 7 inches (14 – 18 cm)

The Ringed Salamander lives in the Ozark Plateau and Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma. Like most salamanders of the family Ambystomatidae, they spend most of their time hidden under ground, leaves, or logs. This is called a fossorial lifestyle. People refer to the family as the mole salamanders, due to their burrowing nature. Their diet includes earthworms, insects, and snails.

Ringed Salamander Mating

The best time to see the Ringed Salamander is in fall from September to November, when they come out to breed. October is the best month to see them. This is when they are the most active breeding. Hundreds of individuals come to shallow, fish-less ponds to avoid any predators. Once courtship occurs, the male releases a spermatophore on the bottom of the pond. Then, the female picks it up with her cloaca. Finally, the female lays her eggs a few days later. The females lays between 5 and 40 eggs on the bottom of the pond. The mother provides no care for her offspring. Eggs hatch anywhere from 9 to 16 days. The larval salamander will stay in the pond for 6 – 8 months (May to June) before completing its metamorphosis. Then, they move to land.

Ringed Salamander
photo by Andrew Hoffman

Conservation

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List categorizes the Ringed Salamander as Least Concern for Extinction. The IUCN Red List justifies this by stating that the salamander has wide distribution and presumed large population. They assume the population is greater than 10,000 individuals and stable. The state of Oklahoma categorizes the salamander as a Species of Greatest Conservation Need. In Missouri, they are a Species of Conservation Need. People want to fill up their ponds to make room for houses or commercial areas. Better protections of their habitat is needed to keep the Ringed Salamander from becoming endangered.

Other Amphibian of the Week

Oriental Fire-bellied Newt (Cynops orientalis)

leastconcern
Common Name: Oriental Fire-bellied Newt
Scientific Name: Cynops orientalis
Family: Salamandridae
Location: China
Size: 2 – 4 inches (6 – 10 cm)

The Oriental Fire-bellied Newt is commonly found in ditches, ponds, and rice terraces in east Central China. Because the Oriental Fire-bellied Newts are common, they are harvested for the pet trade, research, and traditional Chinese medicine. The Chinese Fire-bellied Newt was  one of the most common newts in the pet trade but there is a problem.

The Chinese Fire-bellied Newt is a host for Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal), a fungal pathogen that has been wiping out salamander populations in Europe.  Because of the fear of introducing the disease to the US, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service placed the Chinese Fire-bellied Newt and other species of salamanders on the injurious wildlife under the Lacey Act. These species can not be imported into the US without permits now. Originally,  people were not even allowed to ship the newts and salamanders across state lines. People in the hobby pet trade were not happy about this. So, they fought the USFWS in court and won, making them able to move the salamanders and newts across state lines.

Other Amphibian of the Week

Taylor’s Salamander (Ambystoma taylori)

Taylor's Salamander
photo by Ruth Percino Daniel

CR
Common Name: Taylor’s Salamander
Scientific Name: Ambystoma taylori
Family: Ambystomatidae – Mole Salamander Family
Location: Mexico
Size: 2.3 – 4.4 inches (5.8 – 11.1 cm)

The Taylor’s Salamander is a neotenic salamander, found only in Laguna Alchichica, a crater lack, in Puebla, Mexico. These salamanders are fully aquatic and retain their larval characteristics such as gills, for their entire life.

The lake has very high salinity, at levels that would kill any other salamander species, but not the this salamander. It is somehow able to tolerate it.

Taylor's Salamander
photo by Sebastian Voitel

The Taylor’s Salamander faces difficulties in Laguna Alchichica. The water from the lake is being extracted for irrigation and drinking. The levels of the water is decreasing and the quality of the water is decreasing. This is why they are listed as Critically Endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.

Other Amphibian of the Week

Corsican Fire Salamander (Salamandra corsica)

Salamandra_corsica
photo by André de Saint-Paul
leastconcern


Common Name: Corsican Fire Salamander
Scientific Name: Salamandra corsica
Family:  Salamandridae
Location: France
Size: 4.7 – 12 inches(120 – 300 mm)

The Corsican Fire Salamander is only found in the deciduous forests on the Corsica island near France, hence the name. The salamander generally gives live birth to larvae in ponds and streams. There has been observations of the Corsican Fire Salamander giving birth to fully metamorphosed young.