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Eurycea lucifuga can be red, dull yellow, or orange with a belly that ranges from yellow to white (Bishop 1994). The back and sides of the head, trunk, and tail contain small rounded or irregular black spots (Bishop 1994). These spots can sometimes form a dorso-lateral linear pattern (Bishop 1994). This salamander is slender and has a blunt snout (Petranka 1998). The largest part of the head is located immediately behind the eyes (Bishop 1994).
Adult Eurycea lucifuga are 100-200mm in total length (Petranka 1998). A survey by Hutchison (1958) found that adult males are mature at 46mm SVL and females are mature at 48mm SVL. Males can be identified externally by a swollen snout area by the nasolabial grooves (Bishop 1994). Additionally, males posses more developed cirri than females (Bishop 1994). Juveniles are less pigmented then adults, and are yellowish in color (Conant and Collins 1998). Juveniles also have a shorter tail (Conant and Collins 1998).
Distribution and Habitat
Country distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: United States
U.S. state distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia
Eurycea lucifuga has been found from Tippecanoe County, Indiana in the north to Polk County, Georgia in the south and from Mayes County, Oklahoma in the west to Rockbridge County, Virginia in the east (Hutchison 1958). E. lucifuga is found in the twilight zone of cave habitats and is dependant on limestone for suitable cave habitats (Dundee 1947). Eurycea lucifuga is classified as a troglophile which means it is dependant on the cave environment to complete its life cycles but it has the ability to leave the cave temporarily (Ringia and Lips 2007).
Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors
Oviposition in Eurycea lucifuga takes place from June to November during periods of decreased stream flow (Ringia and Lips 2007). The long breeding season of this species allows for multiple clutches in a season (Ringia and Lips 2007). Larvae leave their natal pools between December and May and the movement is linked to an increase in water flow, oviposition is timed to avoid exposure to spring floods (Ringia and Lips 2007). An average clutch size was described by Hutchison (1958) by looking at ovarian eggs in 17 females. He determined the average to be 68.3 eggs per clutch, with a median of 67, and a range from 49 to 87 (Hutchison 1958). Oviposition occurs deep in cave streams or in cave pools (Ringia and Lips 2007). Larvae emerge at around 17.5mm total length (Bishop, 1994).
An estimation of abundance was given by Hutchison (1958) in a mark-recapture study of four caves found in Giles County, Virginia. In Lucas Cave; Hutchison (1958) estimated 62 individuals; in Williams Cave, Virginia, 60 individuals; in Link Cave, Virginia, 63 individuals, and in Tawney’s Cave, Virginia, 36 individuals.
Eurycea lucifuga has been known to climb rocks (Conant and Collins, 1998).
Trends and Threats
This species is not currently threatened and its populations are remaining stable. However, because of its dependence on Limestone caves and aquifers, any tampering or destruction of these environments will harm the populations inhabiting them.
This species could also be threatened by global climate change because a direct link has been found between larval mortality rate, and increases in natal pool temperature (Ringia and Lips 2007). A recent study found that increased natal pool temperatures can lead to fatal fungal infections in larvae (Ringia and Lips 2007).
Relation to Humans
Eurycea lucifuga currently does not have any destructive relationships with humans. Furthermore, it is a well-studied species, which will help conserve this animal if any threats arise in the near future.
Possible reasons for amphibian decline
General habitat alteration and loss
Bishop, S. (1994). Handbook of Salamanders: The Salamanders of the United States, of Canada, and of Lower California. Comstock Publishing Associates, London.
Collins, J., Collins, S., Horak, J., Mulhern, D., and Busby, W. (1995). An Illustrated Guide to Endangered or Threatened Species in Kansas. University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas.
Conant, R. and Collins, J.T. (1998). A Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America. 3rd Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, Massachusetts.
Dundee, H.A. (1947). ''Notes on salamanders collected in Oklahoma.'' Copeia, 2, 117-120.
Hutchison, V. (1958). ''The distribution and ecology of the Cave Salamander, Eurycea lucifuga.'' Ecological Monographs, 28(1), 2-20.
Petranka, J. W. (1998). Salamanders of the United States and Canada. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington D.C. and London.
Ringia, A.M., Lips, K. (2007). ''Oviposition, early development and growth of the cave salamander, Eurycea lucifuga: surface and subterranean influences on a troglophilic species.'' The Herpetologists' League, Inc., 63(3), 258-268.
Originally submitted by: Mark Mazza II (first posted 2001-02-22)
Edited by: Dr. Brian Smith (2010-09-21)
Species Account Citation: AmphibiaWeb 2010 Eurycea lucifuga: Cave Salamander <https://amphibiaweb.org/species/4053> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed May 22, 2022.
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Citation: AmphibiaWeb. 2022. <https://amphibiaweb.org> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed 22 May 2022.
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