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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Species Fact Profile: Texas Blind Salamander (Eurycea rathbuni)

Texas Blind Salamander
Eurycea rathbuni (Stejneger, 1896)

Range: Edwards Plateau (Texas)
Habitat: Underwater Cave
Diet: Aquatic Invertebrates
Social Grouping: Asocial
Reproduction: Breed year round (no seasonal cues in caves), females court males by rubbing up against them, males deposit spermatophore (packet of sperm) on a rock for the female to pick up
Lifespan: 10 Years
Conservation Status: IUCN Vulnerable

  • Body length 8-14 centimeters; broad, flat head and snout; limbs are very long and slender.  Entirely white, except for the red external gills used to extract oxygen from the water
  • Like many cave-dwellers, the Texas blind salamander is blind - the only eyes it has are two small black dots, under the skin
  • Texas blind salamanders are neotenic, which means that they do not undergo metamorphosis.  The adults resemble the juvenile forms of other salamanders.
  • Extreme cave dwellers, they only ever come above the surface when their water-source pushes them there; the first specimens were discovered when they were drawn up by a newly constructed well in 1898
  • Prey is detected by moving the head back and fort in the water, sensing changes in water pressure caused by the movements of prey
  • Threatened by their very small geographic range and the pollution/overuse of the aquifers where they live

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