Fern Bank Salamander
Country distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: United States
Eurycea pterophila Burger, Smith and Potter, 1950
Paul T. Chippindale1
1. Historical versus Current Distribution. Fern Bank salamanders (Eurycea pterophila) were described originally from Fern Bank (Little Arkansas) Spring, Hays County, Texas, by Burger, Smith and Potter (1950). Schmidt (1953) considered Fern Bank salamanders to be a subspecies of the supposedly widespread Texas salamanders (E. neotenes), and Sweet (1978a,b) synonymized this taxon under E. neotenes without recognizing subspecies. Chippindale (1995), Chippindale (2000), and Chippindale et al. (2000) resurrected the name E. pterophila for populations of Edwards Plateau Eurycea in springs and caves of the Blanco River drainage of Blanco, Hays, and Kendall counties, Texas. Their status remains open to question, pending further studies of relationships among populations of southeastern Edwards Plateau Eurycea.
2. Historical versus Current Abundance. Fern Bank salamanders may be common at spring outflows, but their distribution appears to be extremely limited and patchy.
3. Life History Features.
i. Breeding migrations. Very unlikely to occur.
ii. Breeding habitat. Probably similar to adult habitat.
i. Egg deposition sites. Unknown; closely related species are thought to deposit eggs in gravel substrates.
ii. Clutch size. Unknown.
C. Larvae/Metamorphosis. Fern Bank salamanders are paedomorphic, and natural metamorphosis is unknown.
D. Juvenile Habitat. Probably similar to adult habitat; however, Conrads (1969) found that small juveniles often occurred in shallow (< 1 cm) water.
E. Adult Habitat. Completely aquatic. Spring populations are known only from the immediate vicinity of spring outflows, under rocks and leaves, and in gravel substrate. This species also has been found in Grapevine Cave and T Cave, Blanco County (Chippindale et al., 2000). Water temperatures in springs of the Edwards Plateau are relatively constant throughout the year and typically range from 18–20 ˚C or slightly warmer near the fault zone at the Plateau's edge (Sweet, 1982). Sweet (1978a, 1982) provided a comprehensive distributional analysis of the central Texas Eurycea and discussed the hydrogeology of the region in relation to salamander distribution.
F. Home Range Size. Unknown.
G. Territories. Unknown.
H. Aestivation/Avoiding Dessication. Hamilton (1973) reported that the population at the type locality survived an episode in which the springs ceased to flow. Although this may not constitute true aestivation, it indicates that this species can survive temporary drying of surface outflows.
I. Seasonal Migrations. Very unlikely to occur.
J. Torpor (Hibernation). Probably active throughout the year.
K. Interspecific Associations/Exclusions. Unknown.
L. Age/Size at Reproductive Maturity. In a morphometric analysis of some Edwards Plateau Eurycea (Chippindale et al., 1993), the average SVL of Fern Bank salamanders that were presumed to be adults was 30.6 mm for specimens from the type locality and 36.6 mm from another site, Boardhouse Spring. However, Chippindale et al. probably did not include the smallest reproductively mature specimens in their analysis, and no rigorous studies of reproductive biology have been conducted for this species. Bogart (1967) described oviposition in the laboratory.
M. Longevity. Unknown.
N. Feeding Behavior. Prey probably consist mainly of small aquatic invertebrates, but no detailed feeding studies of this species have been conducted.
O. Predators. Unknown.
P. Anti-Predator Mechanisms. Secretive.
Q. Diseases. Sweet (1978b) demonstrated that occurrence of short digits, one of the features that Burger et al. (1950) considered diagnostic in their original description of this species, was probably the result of tissue loss due to infection by bacteria (Aeromonas sp.).
R. Parasites. Unknown.
4. Conservation. The status of Fern Bank salamanders remains open to question, pending further studies of relationships among populations of southeastern Edwards Plateau Eurycea. Fern Bank salamanders may be common at spring outflows, but their distribution appears to be extremely limited and patchy. They are not listed by either the State of Texas or the Federal Government.
1Paul T. Chippindale
Literature references for Amphibian Declines: The Conservation Status of United States Species, edited by Michael Lannoo, are here.
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Citation: AmphibiaWeb. 2020. <http://amphibiaweb.org> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed 4 Aug 2020.
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