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Salamanders

Salamanders And Humans

Other than a few species that are sometimes kept as unusual pets, salamanders have little direct economic value. However, salamanders are ecologically important in some natural communities, in part because they are productive animals that may be fed upon by a wide range of other animals. In addition, salamanders are interesting creatures, with great intrinsic value.

Considering these direct and indirect values of salamanders, it is very unfortunate that so many species are threatened by population declines, and even extinction. The most important threat to salamanders is the conversion of their natural habitats, such as mature forests, into other types of ecosystems, such as agricultural fields, residential developments, and clear-cuts and other types of harvested forests. These converted ecosystems do not provide adequate habitat for many species of salamanders, and sometimes for none at all. It is critically important that a sufficient area of natural forest and other native habitat types be provided to sustain populations of species of salamanders, and other native wild life.

On January 31, 2000, the U.S. Fish And Wildlife Service, Division of Endangered Species, listed the following 11 species of North American salamanders as being endangered:

  • Barton Springs Salamander (Eurycea sosorum). First listed: April 30, 1997. Historic range: Texas
  • Cheat Mountain Salamander (Plethodon nettingi). First listed: August 18, 1989. Historic range: West Virginia
  • California Tiger Salamander [Ambystoma californiense (A. tigrinum c.)]. First listed: January 19, 2000. Historic range: California
  • Desert Slender Salamander (Batrachoseps aridus). First listed: June 4, 1973. Historic range: California
  • Flatwoods Salamander (Ambystoma cingulatum). First listed: April 1, 1999. Historic range: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina
  • Red Hills Salamander (Phaeognathus hubrichti). First listed: December 3, 1976. Historic range: Alabama
  • San Marcos Salamander (Eurycea nana). First listed: July 14, 1980. Historic range: Texas
  • Santa Cruz Long-toed Salamander (Ambystoma macrodactylum croceum). First listed: March 11, 1967. Historic range: California
  • Shenandoah Salamander (Plethodon shenandoah). First listed: August 18, 1989. Historic range: Virginia
  • Sonoran Tiger Salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum stebbinsi). First listed: January 6, 1997. Historic range: Arizona, Mexico
  • Texas Blind Salamander (Typhlomolge rathbuni). First listed: March 11, 1967. Historic range: Texas

Resources

Books

Bishop, S.C. Handbook of Salamanders. New York: Cornell University Press, 1994.

Conant, Roger, et al. A Field Guide to Reptiles & Amphibians of Eastern & Central North America (Peterson Field Guide Series). Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1998

Harris, C.L. Concepts in Zoology. New York: HarperCollins, 1992.

Hofrichter, Robert. Amphibians: The World of Frogs, Toads, Salamanders and Newts. Toronto: Firefly Books, 2000.

Zug, George R., Laurie J. Vitt, and Janalee P. Caldwell. Herpetology: An Introductory Biology of Amphibians and Reptiles. 2nd ed. New York: Academic Press, 2001.

Periodicals

Petranka, J.W. "Effectiveness of Removal Sampling for Determining Salamander Dens." Journal of Herpetology 35, no.1 (2001): 36-44.


Bill Freedman Randall Frost

KEY TERMS

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Complex life cycle

—A life marked by several radical transformations in anatomy, physiology, and ecology.

Neoteny

—The retardation of typical development processes, so that sexual maturity occurs in animals that retain many juvenile characteristics.

Additional topics

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