Chamberlain's Dwarf Salamander
© 2012 Nathan Shepard (1 of 3)
Eurycea chamberlaini, Harrison and Guttman, 2003
Julian R. Harrison1
1. Historical versus Current Distribution. Unknown. According to Harrison and Guttman (2003), Chamberlain’s dwarf salamanders (Eurycea chamberlaini ) presently are known from an isolated area in the western Piedmont of South Carolina, the lower Piedmont of North Carolina, the upper Coastal Plain of South Carolina, and the central portion of the Coastal Plain in North Carolina. They may also occur in Georgia and Florida (J. Jensen and D. Bruce Means, respectively, personal communications). The isolated area in the upper Piedmont of South Carolina depicted on the range maps of dwarf salamanders (Eurycea quadridigitata) by Martof et al. (1980), Conant and Collins (1998), and Petranka (1998) is occupied only by populations of this new species. The record of Manculus (= Eurycea) quadridigitatus listed by Cope (1889) from “Abbeville, S.C.” and depicted on the range map in Martof et al. (1980) may refer to Chamberlain’s dwarf salamanders, but the specimen has not been re-examined and the record has not been verified. The paper by Brimley (1923) concerning the habits of Manculus quadridigitatus in North Carolina is based upon populations of this new species.
Folkerts (1971) speculated that the isolated populations in the South Carolina Piedmont are remnants of a once more widespread upland form of Manculus (= Eurycea) that disappeared or withdrew to the Coastal Plain when conditions became unfavorable.
2. Historical versus Current Abundance. Unknown, but at present Chamberlain’s dwarf salamanders appear to be relatively common throughout most of their known range.
3. Life History Features.
A. Breeding. Reproduction is aquatic. Chamberlain’s dwarf salamanders have a biphasic life cycle: adults are semi-terrestrial, eggs and larvae are aquatic. Breeding occurs in winter in North Carolina (Brimley, 1923) but in the autumn at the Savannah River Site in Barnwell County, South Carolina (J.H. Pechmann and R.D. Semlitsch, personal communication).
i. Breeding migrations. Unknown, but these probably involve only limited movements to the breeding habitats from immediately adjacent uplands. At the Savannah River Site in Barnwell County, South Carolina, where the two species co-occur, Chamberlain’s dwarf salamanders migrate to Carolina bays later in the autumn than do dwarf salamanders (J.H. Pechmann, personal communiction).
ii. Breeding habitat. Reported by Brimley (1923) to be seepages and runs from springs.
i. Egg deposition sites. Eggs are reported by Brimley (1923) to be scattered about singly or in groups of 3–6 among dead and decaying leaves in seepages and runs from springs.
ii. Clutch size. Unknown. However, Harrison and Guttman (2003) report that the mean number of large, yolk-laden ovarian eggs in Chamberlain’s dwarf salamanders is 45.2 (35–64). Most or all of these probably are oviposited.
i. Length of larval stage. According to Brimley (1923), most hatching occurs in March with metamorphosis occurring 2–3 mo later.
ii. Larval requirements.
a. Food. Unknown but presumably similar to that of congeneric dwarf salamanders (Carr, 1940; Taylor et al., 1988), their putative relative; items consumed include amphipods, ostracods, cladocerans, and chironomid larvae.
b. Cover. As reported by Brimley (1923) for populations in North Carolina, leaf-choked seepage areas and spring runs presumably provide adequate cover for larvae.
iii. Larval polymorphisms. Hatchling larvae of Chamberlain’s dwarf salamanders have an average of 4.5 (1–7) dorsal spots; the number of spots declines over the larval period (Harrison and Guttman, 2003). Spots are absent in hatchling dwarf salamander larvae.
iv. Features of metamorphosis. Unknown.
v. Post-metamorphic migrations. Unknown, but probably limited to immediately adjacent upland habitats.
D. Juvenile Habitat Requirements. Similar to those of adults.
E. Adult Habitat Requirements. Chamberlain’s dwarf salamanders are a semi-terrestrial species. Information from 33 records in the files of the North Carolina State Museum of Natural History (A. Braswell, personal communication) indicates that they normally occupy the margins of streams or seepages (70%) or floodplain or pond sites (30%).
F. Home Range Size. Unknown.
G. Territories. Unknown.
H. Aestivation/Avoiding Dessication. Unknown. However, in North Carolina, Brimley (1923) apparently did not find Chamberlain’s dwarf salamanders during the period from late spring to early autumn. Presumably, the salamanders were in underground retreats, but whether or not they were aestivating remains to be determined.
I. Seasonal Migrations. Unknown, but probably do not occur.
J. Torpor (Hibernation). Unknown. However, Brimley (1923) reported that he often found Chamberlain’s dwarf salamanders from mid October to late April, most frequently during the winter breeding season.
K. Interspecific Associations/Exclusions. Chamberlain’s dwarf salamanders co-occur with congeneric dwarf salamanders at two locations: the Savannah River site in Barnwell County and a site in Allendale County, both in South Carolina (Harrison and Guttman, 2003).
L. Age/Size at Reproductive Maturity. The smallest mature adult measured by Harrison and Guttman (2003) is 22 mm SVL. Folkerts (1971) studied specimens of Chamberlain’s dwarf salamanders (identified as E. quadridigitata) from the upper Piedmont of South Carolina and measured adults or subadults from 20.5–28.7 SVL.
M. Longevity. Unknown.
N. Feeding Behavior. Unknown, but this is a species with a highly projectile (boletoid) tongue, and is therefore likely to be a sit-and-wait predator. Prey items eaten by adults are probably similar to those consumed by dwarf salamanders; these include earthworms, several kinds of insects, spiders, pseudoscorpions, mites, ticks, and millipedes (Carr 1940; McMillan and Semlitsch, 1980; Powders and Cate, 1980).
O. Predators. Unknown, but likely predators probably include crayfish, predaceous insects, large spiders, small snakes, and birds.
P. Anti-Predator Mechanisms. Unknown, but probably limited to immobility coupled with cryptic coloration.
Q. Diseases. Unknown.
R. Parasites. Unknown.
4. Conservation. Chamberlain’s dwarf salamanders have no legal protection but, with the possible and likely exception of some local populations, are probably not in any immediate jeopardy. Protection of larval and adult habitats (springs, seepage areas, and small streams in forested areas) is important for the species' survival.
1Julian R. Harrison
Literature references for Amphibian Declines: The Conservation Status of United States Species, edited by Michael Lannoo, are here.
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Citation: AmphibiaWeb. 2021. <http://amphibiaweb.org> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed 28 Feb 2021.
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