Georgia Blind Salamander
© 2016 Daniel Thompson (1 of 13)
Haideotriton wallacei Carr, 1939
D. Bruce Means1
1. Historical versus Current Distribution. The name Georgia blind salamander (Haideotriton wallacei) originates from the first specimen available to science, which was pumped from a 60-m (200 feet) deep well at Albany, Georgia (Carr, 1939; Brandon, 1967d). Since that time only one other Georgia locality has been established, Climax Cave in Decatur County (Dundee, 1962), yet at least eight localities are known in the Florida Panhandle in the vicinity of Marianna in Jackson County (Pylka and Warren, 1958; Means, 1977, 1992c). All localities allow access to the aquatic habitat of Georgia blind salamanders, the Floridan Aquifer, which circulates in underground passageways in limestones of the Ocala and Suwannee formations. These passageways, and the vadose caves exposed in them, are part of a vast karst region called the Marianna Lowlands in Florida and the Dougherty Plain in Georgia.
2. Historical Versus Current Abundance. The presence of Georgia blind salamanders in underground waters of the Dougherty Plain in Georgia has been re-confirmed recently (March, 1999) in Climax Cave (J. Jensen, personal communication). At least two caves in which Georgia blind salamanders were known to occur in the Marianna Lowlands have been destroyed by human activities; in five other undisturbed caves, the populations of Georgia blind salamanders seemed stable over the period 1970–'92 (personal observations).
3. Life History Features.
A. Breeding. Reproduction is aquatic.
i. Breeding migrations. None known, although it is conceivable that adults move to sites of energy recharge (bat caves, sinkholes) to court and lay eggs. Gravid females with enlarged ova have been found in May and November (Carr, 1939; Means, 1977). Breeding, therefore, may be aseasonal.
ii. Breeding habitat. Not known to differ from habitat of the adults.
i. Egg deposition sites. Unknown.
ii. Clutch size. Unknown.
C. Larvae/Metamorphosis. These salamanders are thought to remain neotenic; no transformed animals have been collected, and larvae show no response to metamorphic agents (Dundee, 1962; Petranka, 1998).
D. Juvenile Habitat. Not known to be different from that of adults.
E. Adult Habitat. Knowledge of the dispersion of populations of Georgia blind salamanders in subterranean waters is biased toward places where air-breathing humans have easy access to those waters in vadose caves and sinkholes. In such sites, Georgia blind salamanders commonly are observed in pools and underground streams of the Floridan Aquifer, especially in caves where bats defecate over or near the water. Individuals move about slowly, resting on bottom sediments or climbing on limestone sidewalls and ledges underwater (Pylka and Warren, 1958; Means, 1992c). Farther back in subterranean tunnels away from air, salamanders become much less common (Means, 1992c), presumably because their food is scarce. The water is usually crystal clear and about 18–21 ˚C, but becomes turbid during heavy rains. Limestone forms the walls and ceiling of the phreatic habitat, and fine red clays and silts lie deep on the floors.
F. Home Range Size. Unknown. Needs study.
G. Territories. Unknown.
H. Aestivation/Avoiding Dessication. These behaviors probably do not occur.
I. Seasonal Migrations. Not known, but possibly happens from distant reaches of passageways to food sources at breeding time.
J. Torpor (Hibernation). Probably does not exist because of the constant temperature of groundwater.
K. Interspecific Associations/Exclusions. Georgia blind salamanders are almost always found with Dougherty Plain blind crayfish (Cambarus cryptodytes; Pylka and Warren, 1958; Means, 1977, 1992c).
L. Age/Size at Reproductive Maturity. Adults measure 51–76 mm TL (Petranka, 1998), but no studies have been conducted on growth rates or age or size at maturity.
M. Longevity. Unknown.
N. Feeding Behavior. Ostracods and amphipods that occur in the water with Georgia blind salamanders were the most numerically common food items in the 40 specimens examined by Lee (1969d) and Peck (1973). Other prey included isopods, copepods, a mite, and beetles.
O. Predators. Dougherty Plain blind crayfish probably prey on Georgia blind salamanders, as may freshwater eels (Anguilla rostrata), brown bullheads (Ameiurus nebulosus), and Florida chubs (Notropis harperi), all of which are commonly found in subterranean waters with Georgia blind salamanders (Means, 1992c).
P. Anti-Predator Mechanisms. Individuals bolt suddenly when any physical disturbance in the water is detected and commonly swim rapidly in an upward spiral, then become motionless in the water and float back down to the bed of the pool or underground passageway (personal observations).
Q. Diseases. None observed.
R. Parasites. Lee (1969d) observed “transparent parasitic nematodes” in the stomachs of 3 of 32 individuals he collected from one cave in the Marianna Lowlands between April and July. Another small specimen that died in captivity and was partially decomposed had “large numbers of live nematodes protruding from the body wall."
4. Conservation. A review of the population status of Georgia blind salamanders has not been conducted. In the period 1969–'92, populations seemed fairly abundant, in spite of heavy collecting in one or two localities (personal observations). Because of agricultural draws-down of the aquifer and possible pollution from agricultural runoff, a resurvey of the known localities and a search for new ones should be conducted. Only caves in the Marianna Caverns State Park are protected.
1D. Bruce Means
Literature references for Amphibian Declines: The Conservation Status of United States Species, edited by Michael Lannoo, are here.
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Citation: AmphibiaWeb. 2019. <http://amphibiaweb.org> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed 24 Jun 2019.
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