EuryceAlliance

advancing research and conservation of Texas Eurycea salamanders

About

About the EuryceAlliance

The EuryceAlliance is an interdisciplinary working group of scientists and natural resource managers dedicated to advancing our understanding and conservation of the neotenic Eurycea salamanders of central Texas.The group meets yearly to share new scientific research and discuss new research methodologies and conservation issues for Eurycea. There are more than 50 participants in the EuryceAlliance, representing  seven research universities (University of Texas at Austin, University of Texas at Arlington, Texas State University, Southwestern University, Missouri State University, University of Florida and Yale University), six government agencies (Travis County Natural Resources, City of Austin, US Fish & Wildlife Service, Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, National Park Service and Lower Colorado River Authority), three environmental consulting firms (Zara Environmental, Loomis Partners and SWCA) and two non-profit organizations (The Nature Conservancy and SOS Alliance). The working group was founded in 2011 by then-graduate student Hayley Gillespie of the University of Texas at Austin with generous support from Texas State University’s Department of Biology, Dr. Caitlin Gabor and graduate student Drew Davis.

The EuryceAlliance is currently working with researchers in the Wildlife Diversity Program at Texas Parks & Wildlife Department to (1) establish guidelines for data collection protocol through a EuryceAlliance field form, (2) establish guidelines for consolidating field observations into discreet populations (NatureServe Evidence of Occurrence Specs) and (3) establish criteria for providing a coarse rank of population viability (NatureServe Evidence of Occurrence Rank Specs). This methodology is used by the NatureServe Network, and is the basis for how TPWD compiles information in the Texas Natural Diversity Database. The TPWD Wildlife Diversity Program is a member of the NatureServe Network. By participating in this process, researchers in the EuryceAlliance are helping to create a collaborative, centralized field visit reporting system that will allow us to identify new population discoveries, log follow-up site visits and will allow us to track which spring sites need better population monitoring.

Scientists from the EuryceAlliance are always happy to serve as a resource for scientific information about any Texas Eurycea salamander species for the public, teachers, the media and policymakers. Please contact Dr. Hayley Gillespie at eurycealliance@gmail.com with your questions or information requests.

If you are a researcher, student, habitat manager or are otherwise involved in conservation and research of the Texas Eurycea salamanders, please get in touch and let us know about your work. If you have ideas for the EuryceAlliance or would like to help with future meetings or other activities, please contact Dr. Hayley Gillespie (eurycealliance@gmail.com).

 

About the Texas Eurycea Salamanders

Here is a slide show by Eurycea researcher Nathan Bendik which can also be viewed here (you can even use this link to  buy prints or cards of these photos).

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The Encyclopedia of Life features an excellent description of the salamander genus Eurycea, which is only found in North America:

“The genus Eurycea was first described by Constantine Samuel Rafinesque-Schmaltz in 1822, with a specimen of the spotted-tail salamander, Eurycea lucifuga, from Kentucky.

Many sources also refer to several species of the genus as cave salamanders, due to their choice of habitat, or as blind salamanders, due to their reduced eyes, or the antiquated term for aquatic salamanders, Triton. Most species are from very isolated localities, so bear the name of the place the first specimen was found.”

There are approximately 13 described species of Eurycea salamanders in Texas, but there are still several populations and variation within populations that may be unique species or sub-species. The currently accepted taxonomy of the central Texas Eurycea is derived from two key studies:

  • Phylogenetic Relationships and Systematic Revision of Central Texas Hemidactyliine Plethodontid Salamandersby Paul T. Chippindale, Andrew H. Price, John J. Wiens and David M. Hillis published in the journal Herpetological Monographs (Vol. 14, (2000), pp. 1-80)
  • A New Species of Subterranean Blind Salamander (Plethodontidae: Hemidactyliini: Eurycea: Typhlomolge) from Austin, Texas, and A Systematic Revision of Central Texas Paedomorphic Salamanders by David M. Hillis, Dee Ann Chamberlain, Thomas P. Wilcox and Paul T. Chippindale published in the journal Herpetologica (Vol. 57, No. 3 (Sep., 2001), pp. 266-280).

These species include:

  • Eurycea chisholmensis (Salado Salamander), Proposed Endangered
  • Eurycea latitans (Cascade Caverns Salamander)
  • Eurycea nana (San Marcos Salamander), Threatened
  • Eurycea naufragia (Georgetown Salamander),  Proposed Endangered
  • Eurycea neotenes (Texas Salamander), Under Review in the Candidate or Petition Process
  • Eurycea pterophila (Fern Bank Salamander)
  • Eurycea rathbuni (Texas Blind Salamander), Endangered
  • Eurycea robusta (Blanco Blind Salamander)
  • Eurycea sosorum (Barton Springs Salamander), Endangered
  • Eurycea tonkawae (Jollyville Plateau Salamander), Proposed Endangered
  • Eurycea tridentifera (Comal Blind Salamander), Under Review in the Candidate or Petition Process
  • Eurycea troglodytes (Valdina Farms Salamander)
  • Eurycea waterlooensis (Austin Blind Salamander), Proposed Endangered

The Texas Eurycea salamanders are primarily found in the springs and caves of the Edwards Aquifer. Unlike many other salamander species, these salamanders do not experience metamorphosis but instead keep their feathery gills and live in an aquatic habitat their entire life. They breathe by absorbing oxygen through their gills and skin and cannot survive very long out of water. Only a few populations of Eurycea near Lost Maples State Park are known to naturally metamorphose. These salamanders are  impacted by water quality as the pollutants that enter the Edwards Aquifer must exit through salamander habitat. Also, development over the surface of the Edwards Aquifer prevents rainwater from re-entering and filling up the aquifer, reducing water flow in springs and caves. Thus, these salamanders are informally considered to be indicator species of water quality for the Edwards Aquifer.

Want to Learn More about the Texas Eurycea?

If you are interested in seeing the Texas Eurycea in person there are three public facilities that currently display these animals. The Barton Springs Salamander (Eurycea sosorum), is on display in the City of Austin’s SPLASH! Exhibit in Zilker Park, the Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park in Dallas, Texas and the Museum Of Living Art at the Fort Worth Zoo. The Texas Blind Salamander (Eurycea rathbuni) and San Marcos Salamander (Eurycea nana) are on display at the aquarium in the Aquarena Center in San Marcos, Texas. You can also find more about the Texas Eurycea on the web! Amphibiaweb.org, the Herps of Texas project, ARKive.org, the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, US Fish & Wildlife Service Endangered Species Program and Encyclopedia of Life all feature species profiles of the Texas Eurycea.

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