CATHERINE STATE PARK (AGFC) – Researchers from the University of Tulsa and the
Arkansas Game and Fish Commission announced today the discovery of a new
and unique species of aquatic salamander found at Lake Catherine State
Park, near Hot Springs.
paper describing the two-and-a-half inch long amphibian was recently
published in the journal Zootaxa. The Ouachita Streambed Salamander,
Eurycea subfluvicola, can be officially added to a growing list of 28
species of salamanders that call Arkansas home. The scientific name
"subfluvicola," which means "dwells below the stream," refers to this
salamander's habit of moving down into the streambed gravels during the
summer months when surface waters dry up.
discovery was made possible through the collaborative efforts of
University of Tulsa Ph.D. student Michael Steffen, his advisor Dr. Ron
Bonett, and Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Herpetologist Kelly Irwin.
As part of several ongoing research projects in Bonett's lab, Irwin and
Steffen were granted permission to collect salamanders within the state
parks system by Arkansas State Parks Director Greg Butts.
notifying Lake Catherine State Park Superintendent Richard Boyes,
Steffen and Irwin began searching for salamanders along park streams in
spring 2011. "We collected the first specimen in late May 2011, but we
didn't know that we had a new species until I sequenced its DNA. That's
because the new species is very similar in appearance to the larvae of
the common Many-ribbed Salamander, which live in the same stream,"
Steffen said. Hampered by drought conditions, the team spent the next
year and a half searching for a second specimen to confirm their initial
findings. Their efforts were finally rewarded in February 2013 when
additional specimens were collected, and further genetic tests confirmed
that they had a distinct new species of salamander.
examination of the new species by Steffen, Bonett and co-author Andrea
Blair show that the diminutive, yellowish-brown salamander is not only
genetically distinct, but differs from its nearest relative, the
Many-ribbed Salamander, in the shape of the head and body, and life
history traits. The Ouachita Streambed Salamander is paedomorphic
(meaning adults retain larval characteristics throughout life), and this
is one of the most distinct new species of paedomorphic salamander
discovered within the past 70 years. "Continued support for this type of
collaborative research is very important because it helps us to
understand the true biodiversity of our wildlife resources. Such
information can then be translated into taking appropriate conservation
and management actions to insure the continued survival of these
species," Irwin explained.
To date, the
Ouachita Streambed Salamander has only be found at two nearby stream
sites, one about 150 feet in length, and another approximately 30 feet
in length, making this one of the most restricted known ranges for any
amphibian species in the U.S. The researchers will continue to search
for locations, in areas both inside and outside of the park, in hopes of
finding additional populations.
mapping the locations where they found salamanders, the researchers
determined that one site was about to be impacted by sediments washed
downstream, which threatened to fill in a pool where the salamanders are
most abundant. Thanks to the combined efforts of Steve Filipek and
Stephen O'Neal of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission's Stream Team
Program and Lake Catherine State Park staff, a project was undertaken to
remove excess sediment from the streambed and construct a sediment trap
to retard movement of additional sediments into the pool.
"I am very
pleased to be a part of the discovery and description of yet another
species of amphibian that occurs nowhere else in the world but here in
Arkansas," according to Irwin.
about the Ouachita Streambed Salamander can be directed to Kelly Irwin
at the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission at 501-539-0431 or
firstname.lastname@example.org, Ron Bonett at 918-631-3328 or
email@example.com, or Mike Steffen at firstname.lastname@example.org at
the University of Tulsa.