AmphibiaWeb - Tylototriton podichthys
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Tylototriton podichthys Phimmachak, Aowphol & Stuart, 2015
Luang Phabang Crocodile Newt
Subgenus: Tylototriton
family: Salamandridae
subfamily: Pleurodelinae
genus: Tylototriton
Species Description: Phimmachak S, Aowphol A, Stuart BL 2015 Morphological and molecular variation in Tylototriton (Caudata: Salamandridae) in Laos, with description of a new species. Zootaxa 4006: 285-310.
Conservation Status (definitions)
IUCN Red List Status Account Least Concern (LC)
CITES Appendix II
National Status None
Regional Status None

   

 
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bookcover Account written by Axel Hernandez, author of Crocodile Newts: The Primitive Salamandridae of Asia (Genera Echinotriton and Tylototriton), 2016 Edition Chimaira and may contain excerpts from here. More on the author and book.   

Author: Axel Hernandez

Tylototriton podichthys PHIMMACHAK, AOWPHOL & STUART 2015
Luang Phabang crocodile newt

Diagnosis and taxonomy

The holotype (NCSM 77721) is an adult female collected at Nam Madao Village, Phoukhoun District, in Luang Phabang Province, Laos (19º18’0.3”N 102º34’25.2”E) at 1,189 m a.s.l. in August of 2009. Aside from topotypic paratypes, others were collected at Yord Lieng Village, Kham District, Xieng Khouang Province, and in the Phou Louey National Protected Area, Viengthong District, Huaphanh Province. The specific epithet has been composed from the Greek words pod for “foot” and ichthys for “fish”, in reference to the Lao vernacular name pa theen that means “fish with feet” and is widely applied to newts (Tylototriton and Laotriton) in Laos. According to recent phylogenies, T. podichthys is clustered within Clade A comprising T. shanjing, T. verrucosus and T. pulcherrimus (PHIMMACHAK et al. 2015). Concerning its morphology, this species is a moderate newt with an indistinct median glandular ridge on the crown; distinct, 14 - 15 dorsolateral glandular and large warts with diameters equivalent to, or greater than, that of the eye; parotoids oriented parallel to the body long axis in lateral view; a thick, glandular, tubercular vertebral ridge; rough glandular skin on the cranial crest; orange markings that are separated between the dorsolateral glandular warts; and a dark brown coloration on the tips of its digits. The dorsal faces of the body are black, whereas the throat, chest, belly, and ventral faces of the limbs are black with scant irregular orange mottling. The crown of the head, ventral margin of lower jaw, dorsal faces of the limbs, ventral faces of hands and feet, the cloaca, and tail are orange and very bright on the parotoids, vertebral ridge and costal warts. The iris is brown and the pupil black (PHIMMACHAK et al. 2015). Females are more robust and larger than males and can reach 16.5 cm in total length, whereas males measure about 12 - 13.0 cm TL and will be slimmer to outright thin during the breeding season (obs. pers.). Males also have a longer cloacal slit compared to females. Tylototriton podichthys differs from T. verrucosus by having distinctly contrasting markings on the cranial crest, parotoids, vertebral ridge, and dorsolateral glandular warts (indistinct in T. verrucosus), an indistinct glandular ridge on the midline of the crown (distinct in T. verrucosus), rough, glandular skin on the cranial crest (smooth in T. verrucosus), and parotoids that are oriented parallel to the body long axis in lateral view (oriented obliquely downwards relative to the body long axis in T. verrucosus). It differs from T. shanjing by having an indistinct glandular ridge on the midline of the crown (distinct in T. shanjing), no sharp contrast between the orange crown and black nape (sharp in T. shanjing), dark coloration on the ventral faces of the limbs (orange in T. shanjing), and dark brown digit tips (uniformly orange in T. shanjing).

Distribution

This species occurs in three provinces in Laos, i.e., Luang Phabang, Xieng Khouang, and Huaphanh. In 2013, GUSTAVO ESPALLARGAS (FUG) found this species in Nam Lieng, Laos, but originally misidentified it as T. shanjing (SPARREBOOM 2014). Some morphologically similar individuals were observed by MIAN HOU and the author in southern China in 2015 where this species probably occurs, too.

Habitat, ethology and ecology

This species is mainly terrestrial and occurs at 1,189 – 1,493 m a.s.l. in open land around subtropical forest and rice paddies. In some areas, adults were found in abandoned rice paddies with shrub forest around (GUSTAVO ESPALLARGAS pers. comm. 2015). T. podichthys lives in sympatry with Laotriton laoensis at the type locality Nam Madao Village. PHIMMACHAK et al. (2015) studied this species intensely in a 55,800- m² area in Xiengkhouang Province in Laos from June of 2012 through July of 2013. They captured 380 individuals and found the species to live in many different habitats (forests, shrub societies), but was more prominent at an equal sex ratio in small streams during the breeding season (June to July). Their diet consisted of earthworms, various terrestrial insects, and other arthropods such as woodlice, centipedes and millipedes. T. podichthys migrates to forest and shrub forest habitats in October to November for spending the winter sheltered in the ground. The newts may then travel considerable distances, ranging from a about a hundred meters to two kilometers from their breeding streams.

Reproduction

Reproduction-related activities begin in June to July. Eggs are deposited approximately two to three days after mating on the moist undersides of vegetation in dry stream pools before these fill with water from the rains of the beginning monsoon season. The larvae then metamorphose during the cold season, from November to December. Adult oophagy was not noted in T. podichthys, probably because the newts feed little or not at all during the brief period of aquatic courtship and mating.

Status, threats and conservation

Common in the past and still present, PHIMMACHAK et al. (2015) learnt from local Lao people that foreign visitors harvested and/or purchased T. podichthys in the Kham and Phoukhout Districts for the pet trade and medicinal purposes in 2007 and 2008. However, the primary threat to T. podichthys at present is habitat loss as in other Salamandridae. Natural habitats are rapidly modified for agricultural purposes by means of slash-and-burn methods and poisoned with chemicals (herbicides and fertilizers), which could lead to the extirpation of this newt population in the near future.

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Citation: AmphibiaWeb. 2024. <https://amphibiaweb.org> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed 23 Jul 2024.

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