The Texas Blind Salamander (Eurycea rathbuni) is in the Plethodontidae family, also known as lungless salamanders. There are over 400 species of plethodontids making them the most speciose family of salamanders. These salamanders have elaborate and stereotyped courtship rituals. Research has suggested that in general, the male initiates the mating ritual in salamanders. While research and data are sparse for Texas Blind Salamander, it has been reported in captivity that the female actually initiates the courtship behavior.
The female has been reported to rub her nose on the dorsum and side of the male near the cloacal region. Next, the female was observed to rub her cloacal region against the rocks on the bottom of the tank nearby the male. The nearby male began to show interest at this point and courtship ensued. The courtship sequence proceeded with the male depositing a spermatophore, leading the female, and finally the female’s cloaca aligned over the spermatophore to pick it up.
Courtship and sperm transfer in pygmy salamanders, Desmognathus wrighti. From biocyclopedia.com
This courtship behavior account comes from a lovely paper in 1988 by Bechler in The Southwestern Naturalist.
Learn more about Plethodontidae here on the Amphibiaweb page.
The Texas Blind Salamander (Eurycea rathbuni) is a cave salamander that has adapted to life living in the dark. With extremely underdeveloped eyes, unpigmented skin, and the retention of its juvenile aquatic form, this salamander is perfectly suited to live in the underground cave streams. Found only in caves around San Marcos, Texas these salamanders are actually considered endangered on the State level. Because they live only in specific areas and rely on the Edwards aquifer, the Texas blind salamander is extremely susceptible to changes in water quality. Their size reaches between 3 and 5 inches and they eat a diet of most aquatic invertebrates.
Click here to read this story about a day in the life of the Texas Blind Salamander from the Tree of Life project.
Watch this video to see Eurycea rathbuni doing his thing at the Edwards aquifer:
Stay tuned to Nature Afield tomorrow for a follow-up on the interesting mating habits of the Texas Blind Salamander!!!
The name “sea pig” conjures up many images, but probably not that of a deep-sea holothurian echinoderm. There are three species of sea pigs all in the genus Scotoplanes. They inhabit deep sea floors often high densities and are thus sensitive to deep sea trawling.
Check out these videos to see the sea pig in action! (Canadian Scientific Submersible Facility)
Finally, to learn more click here for a link to the Echinoblog.
I just returned from a trip to the UK and I am sorry to say that I didn’t manage to catch a glimpse of this toad.
The Natterjack toad (Epidalea calamita) is found on the sandy heathlands of Europe. They differ from the common toad in that they have a strong yellow to white line down their back and have more of a run type of movement than hop. They also differ in their call structure and some say they claim the prize for the loudest amphibians in the UK.
The Natterjack toad is protected under the biodiversity action plan in the UK. Learn more from the video below:
Natterjack from John Walker & Vian Curtis on Vimeo.
Follow this link to a recent article in Animal Conservation “Connectivity of local amphibian populations: modelling the migratory capacity of radio-tracked natterjack toads” from U. Sinsch et al., 2012.
This short 5 minute documentary is pretty incredible.
Southern leopard frog USGS
A recent study finally set out to clear up all the confusion on the exact ranges of the two members of the leopard frog complex and in doing so revealed a new species. The recent Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution paper (link here) uncovered a leopard frog species living in the urban areas of NY, NJ, and CT.
In the figure above, light gray represents the Northern leopard frog (Rana pipiens) range while the dark gray is the range of the Southern leopard frog (Rana sphenocephala). The black indicates an overlap and the red oval from the inset stars the study sites.
Using molecular data from toe clips the authors constructed the tree below where the symbols also correlate to the symbols from the map above. The pickerel frog (Rana palustris) has also been included.
The authors posit that this data strongly supports the existence of a new leopard frog species with a distinct lineage from R. pipiens and R. sphenocephala.
The range for this frog thus far is relatively small so more research is needed to establish a complete range and consider possible conservation measures.
Check out this 1983 paper from Hillis et al., 1983 if you’d like a more historical perspective on the Rana pipiens complex. Click here.