10.28.2008

Fall salamander searching (long post!)

Sarah and I recently returned from a great trip where we got to visit family and friends, go to a wedding and work meetings, and do some herping in between. Not many frogs call at this time of year, and it was a bit cool for many reptiles to be out, but it wasn't a bad time to look for salamanders.

Our first stop was a cave in Tennessee, where Sarah spotted the only Tennessee Cave Salamander (Gyrinophilus palleucus necturoides) that we were to find, about 300 m into the cave, in a crystal clear stream. These retain a larval body form (funny head shape, external gills, larval pigmentation, etc) throughout their lives. If you click the play button on the video, you can see how it moves.


video

Nearer to the entrance of the cave, we found two young Bullfrogs (Rana catesbeiana) and this Northern Zigzag Salamander (Plethodon dorsalis).



Here are a couple photos to give an idea of what the cave looked like.



In Kentucky, I found one species new to me, the Northern Ravine Salamander (Plethodon electromorphus),

adult


juvenile (found in different location, so not sure on electromorphus or richmondi)


and some more familiar species.

American Toad (Bufo americanus) looking almost regal


adult Longtail Salamander (Eurycea longicauda)


juvenile Longtail Salamander


In West Virginia, I tried to find Green Salamanders (Aneides aeneus), but their habitat was too dry. I did get to observe Barred Owls (Strix varia), Southern Flying Squirrels (Glaucomys volans), and some neat amphibians, so the effort wasn't without reward.

Northern Redback Salamander (Plethodon cinereus) eating a sowbug (class isopoda)


Northern Slimy Salamander (Plethodon glutinosus)


larval Northern Spring Salamander (Gyrinophylus porphyriticus porphyriticus)
I found an adult, but couldn't get photos.


On my way to Virginia, and in Virginia, I found some more neat species, including the highlight of the trip in this river.


An 18" Eastern Hellbender!!! (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis alleganiensis)



Here's a video to see how it moves:
video

Eastern Red-spotted Newt eft (Notophthalmus viridescens viridescens)


Eastern Worm Snake (Carphophis amoenus amoenus), one of only two snakes seen on the trip


Wehrle's Salamander (Plethodon wehrlei)
from Northern Virginia


Dixie Caverns variant Wehrle's Salamander
I'm a bit surprised that this is considered part of the same species as other wehrle's.


Northern Two-lined Salamander (Eurycea bislineata)


On my way to Philadelphia to visit our good friends, Kate and Nate, I stopped at Shenandoah National Park and enjoyed some nice scenery, which was representative of the whole trip with the beautiful fall colors.


I also happened across a couple Shenandoah Salamanders (Plethodon shenandoah).
red form

yellow form


Not sure if this is a legitimate wild bird or not, but this White-cheeked Pintail (Anas bahamensis), a mostly carribean species, wasn't too far out of the way to go see. The other two ducks are Green-winged Teal (Anas crecca).


On our way back down to Florida after visiting Kate and Nate, followed by Chris, Jess, and little Henry, we stopped briefly at a couple parks and poked around a bit.

gravid? female Marbled Salamander (Ambystoma opacum)


Apalachicola Dusky Salamander (Desmognathus apalachicolae)


Gopher Tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus)


video of it going into its burrow
video

At one stop we had the pleasure of seeing some rare Florida plants.
Florida Yew (Taxus floridana)


Torreya (Torreya taxifolia)
The torreya is extinct in the wild, with the exception of a few sprouts from old roots, like the one pictured below. As with the American Chestnut (Castanea dentata), a fungus was accidentally brought in that resulted in a 100% death rate for torreyas. They can now grow for a little while, but are attacked by the fungus before they get old enough to reproduce.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Title suggestion: "Let's go herping now. Everybody herping now. Come and do some herping with me."
-Zick

Anonymous said...

Very cool! Hellbender!! Man I'm jealous. I've been meaning to call you and see how it went, but I'm going to go ahead and use the lame excuse of being busy. Well, good work, thats what I like to see. I'm still gonna call you and get you to tell me the specifics of the bender experience.

Steve