Uncategorized

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 can be found in the Red Hills region of southern Alabama, hence the name. They are a fossorial species of salamander, staying underground most of their life. 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 can lay around 6-16 eggs at a time. Its believed that the eggs hatch in around two months into tiny salamanders.

While the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list lists the salamander as endangered, the United States 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

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.

Other Amphibian of the Week

Ringed Salamander (Ambystoma annulatum)

ringed-salamander.jpg
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 is found in the Ozark Plateau and Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma. Like most salamanders of the family Ambystomatidae, they are fossorial, spending most of their time hidden under ground, leaves, or logs. Hence why the family is often called the mole salamanders.

The best time to see the Ringed Salamander is fall from September to November, when they come out to breed. October is the best month to see them since that 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 will lay a spermatophor on the bottom of the pond and the female will pick it up with her cloaca. The female then lays her eggs a few days later. A day or two later, the females between 5 and 40 eggs on the bottom of the pond. Eggs hatch anywhere from 9 to 16 days after being laid. The larval salamander will stay in the pond for 6 – 8 months (May to June) before completing its metamorphosis and move to land.

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.

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