Reticulated Flatwoods Salamander
Species Description: Pauly GB, Piskurek O, Shaffer HB 2006 Phylogeographic concordance in the southeastern United States: the flatwoods salamander, Ambystoma cingulatum, as a test case. Mol. Ecol. 16:415-429.
© 2012 Todd Pierson (1 of 10)
Diagnosis: A. bishopi can be distinguished from A. cingulatum by its shorter limbs and smaller head (USFWS 2009). Generally, this species has fewer costal grooves than A. cingulatum and a shorter tail. The ventral pattern of A. bishopi consists of indistinct white spots on a dark background, creating a "salt and pepper" look, compared to A. cingulatum, which has distinct white spots on the ventral side (Goin 1950; USFWS 2009). The dorsal side pattern of A. bishopi is more net-like in appearance than the frosted patterning of A. cingulatum (USFWS 2009; Goin 1950).
Tadpole morphology: Larvae are less vividly marked and metamorphose earlier and at a smaller size than A. cingulatum (Goin 1950; Telford 1954). A. bishopi has several stripes either yellow brown or black along the body. Gills are bright red in life (Telford 1954).
A. bishopi and A. cingulatum larvae are difficult to distinguish (Martof and Gerhardt 1965). A. cingulatum larvae have broad, striped heads, with a black stripe extending from the nose to the gills and a second stripe along the upper jaw (Palis 1996). A light lateral stripe is retained in first year fully metamorphosed individuals, but is lost in older individuals (Palis 1997).
Coloration: The dorsal surface of A. bishopi is reticulated, with thin grey lines that form a net-like or banded pattern against a black to brown background (USFWS 2009). These lines surround areas of dark coloration (Martof and Gerhardt 1965). Small white flecks on a dark background cover the ventral surface, creating a "salt and pepper" pattern (Goin 1950). Preserved specimens of A. bishopi, can become dark, making their dorsal pattern unrecognizable (Martof and Gerhardt 1965).
Distribution and Habitat
Country distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: United States
U.S. state distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: Alabama, Florida, Georgia
Habitat for mature salamanders consists of upland areas with few tress, typically longleaf pines, and grasses. Soil is poorly drained sand, which leads to seasonal ponds and damp surroundings. This habitat will often have an open overstory of widely scattered longleaf pine, little to no midstory, and a diverse community of low growing shrubs which include highly diverse forb and grass communities (Palis 1996).
Larval A. bishopi occupy acidic (pH 3.4 - 5.6) ephemeral wetlands. These wetlands have varying amounts of vegetation, and lack dense midstory growth. Canopy is comprised of a typical Florida wetland assemblage (Palis 1996).
Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors
Females lay a number of eggs proportional to their size but may produce up to 225 eggs. Eggs are deposited either individually or in small groups beneath leaf litter, logs, shrubs, trees or at the entrance to crayfish burrows before breeding sites begin to fill up (Anderson and WIlliamson 1976; Palis 1996). Eggs may develop to hatching size within three weeks but will not actually hatch until flooded with water. Larvae are nocturnal, hiding most of the day, and feeding in a water column at night. Metamorphosis usually takes place beginning in March and ends in April (Palis 1996). Mature salamanders move to upland areas where they live until returning to ponds to breed (USFWS 2009).
Adults of A. bishopi have been known to consume earthworms while larvae feed on invertebrates, such as crustaceans, isopods (Caecidotea) and amphipods (Crangonyx) (Goin 1950; Whiles et al. 2004).
Trends and Threats
A. bishopi selectively breeds in open canopy, longleaf pines which are particularly fire-adapted. However, fire suppression may lead to changes in the coverage and wetland composition that this species selects for. Further growth could crowd the ecosystem and destroy historical breeding ponds (Bishop and Haas 2005). Though this has not been proven, the potential exists if no consideration is given.
Due to the burrowing nature of the species, adult population numbers are difficult to enumerate. However, no more than 10,000 adults in twenty populations are estimated within the entire range. The population is assumed to be declining rapidly given deforestation, silviculture, and general habitat degradation and fragmenting (Palis and Hammerson 2008).
Possible reasons for amphibian decline
General habitat alteration and loss
Anderson, J. D., and Williamson, G. K. (1976). ''Terrestrial mode of reproduction in Ambystoma cingulatum.'' Herpetologica, 32, 214-221.
Bishop, D.C, Haas, C.A. (2005). ''''Burning trends and potential negative effects of suppressing wetland fires on flatwoods salamanders.'' Natural Areas Journal , 25, 290-294.
Goin, C. J. (1950). ''A study of the salamander, Ambystoma cingulatum, with the description of a new subspecies.'' Annals of the Carnegie Museum, 31, 229-321.
Martof, B. S., and Gerhardt, H. C. (1965). ''Observations on the geographic variation in Ambystoma cingulatum.'' Copeia, 1965, 342-346.
Palis, J. G. (1997). ''Breeding migration of Ambystoma cingulatum in Florida.'' Journal of Herpetology, 31, 71-78.
Palis, J., Hammerson, G. 2008. Ambystoma cingulatum. In: IUCN 2011. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2011.2. www.iucnredlist.org. Downloaded on 15 March 2012.
Palis, J.G. (1996). ''Flatwoods Salamander (Ambystoma cingulatum Cope). Element stewardship abstract.'' Natural Areas Resource Journal, 16, 49-54.
Pauly, G.B., Piskurek, O., Shaffer, H.B. (2007). ''Phylogeographic concordance in the southeastern United States: the flatwoods salamander, Ambystoma cingulatum, as a test case.'' Molecular Ecology, 16, 415-429.
Telford, S. R. (1954). ''A description of the larvae of Ambystoma cingulatum bishopi Goin. including an extension of the range.'' Quarterly Journal of the Florida Academy of Sciences, 17, 233-236.
United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) (2009). ''Determination of endangered status for Reticulated Flatwoods Salamander.'' Federal Register, 74(26), 6700-6774.
Whiles, M. R., Jensen, J. B., and Palis, J. G. (2004). ''Diets of larval flatwoods salamanders, Ambystoma cingulatum, from Florida and South Carolina.'' Journal of Herpetology, 38, 208-214.
Written by Jennifer McKenzie, K. Martin Perales and Veronica Corbett (jenmckenzie AT ucdavis.edu, kmperales AT ucdavis.edu and vbcorbett AT ucdavis.edu), UC Davis
First submitted 2010-08-27
Edited by Mingna (Vicky) Zhuang (2014-03-05)
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