An aquatic, cave-dwelling salamander. This weird-looking animal is gilled throughout life, has extremely thin limbs, and is virtually pigmentless. The eyes are reduced and non-functional. A tail fin is present. Adults are 9-13.5 cm total length, with 12 costal grooves. Juveniles have proportionally larger eyes. See Petranka (1998) for references.
Distribution and Habitat
Country distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: United States
U.S. state distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: Texas
This species has an extremely restricted range and has been found at a small number of localities near San Marcos, Hays Co. Texas. Adults and larvae are adapted for dwelling underground and may occur quite deep. Pools where this species has been collected have minimal current and nearly constant temperature of 21-22º. See Petranka (1998) for references.
Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors
Very little is known about the biology of this species. Courtship has been observed in captivity. This species has a tail-straddling walk similar to what has been observed in other plethodontid salamanders. Fertilization is by means of a spermatophore deposited on the substrate by the male and picked up in the cloaca by the female (Belcher 1988).
Small juveniles have been found throughout the year and breeding may be aseasonal. One gravid female contained 39 mature ova. Known diet items include blind shrimp, snails, and amphipods (Longley 1978).
Trends and Threats
This species has a restricted range and is not commonly encountered. Eurycea rathbuni is protected at both local and national levels (Petranka 1998).
Until recently E. rathbuni and E. robusta were placed in the genus Typhlomolge. Although they are extreme in their specializations for living in underground aquatic systems, these two species are closely related to other species of Eurycea from Texas and the eastern United States (Chippindale 1995; Petranka 1998).
Belcher, D. L. (1988). "Courtship behavior and spermatophore deposition by the subterranean salamander, Typhlomolge rathbuni (Caudata, Plethodontidae)." Southwestern Naturalist, 33, 124-126.
Chippindale, P. T. (1995). Evolution, phylogeny, biogeography, and taxonomy of Central Texas spring and cave salamanders, Eurycea and Typhlomolge (Plethodontidae: Hemidactyliini. Ph.D Dissertation, University of Texas.
Longley, G. (1978). ''Status of Typhlomolge (= Eurycea) rathbuni, the Texas Blind Salamander.'' Endangered Species Report 2. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Albuquerque, NM, 2:1-45.
Petranka, J. W. (1998). Salamanders of the United States and Canada. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington and London.
Written by Meredith J. Mahoney (molge AT yahoo.com), Museum of Vertebrate Zoology
First submitted 2000-07-24
Edited by M. J. Mahoney (2008-01-16)
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