December 11, 2020
It's time for today's #BenInNature update! Here's something a little unusual to close out the week! This is Eurycea cirrigera, better known as the southern two-lined salamander. This salamander can be found pretty commonly in the southeastern United States. What's unusual is that since I started writing these nature posts back in March, I had only found three species of salamander on my property (the Northern red salamander Pseudotriton ruber ruber; the eastern newt Notophthalmus viridescens; and the white-spotted slimy salamander Plethodon cylindraceus). This is the fourth species I've found, and I only found it just a few weeks ago in late November! What does this mean? Probably just that I missed it earlier in the year, but still, pretty neat!
I found this particular salamander under a rotting log several hundred feet from the nearest creek. This is also a bit unusual, as the adult salamanders are closely associated with water, especially during the spring breeding season and during the fall and winter. The larval salamanders, meanwhile, have gills and are aquatic, living in ponds or streams and feeding mostly on small invertebrates. It takes a couple of years for them to become adults, at which point they can move between land and water. The adult salamanders reach about three inches in length, although one record-setter was nearly five inches long!
While these salamanders are fairly abundant within their range, they face the same danger as all forest salamanders: habitat destruction, particularly from the clearcutting of forests and pollution in the streams they call home.
Thank you to Jason Gibson of the Virginia Herpetological Society for confirming this ID!
Social distancing can be difficult, but it presents a great opportunity to become reacquainted with nature. In this series of posts, Administrator of Science Ben Williams ventures outdoors to record a snapshot of the unique sights that can be found in the natural world. New updates are posted Monday - Friday, with previous posts highlighted on the weekends.
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