New Salamanders in Our Midst

University of Texas biologists have discovered three new species of groundwater salamander

Photo by Tom Devitt

University of Texas biologists have discovered three new species of groundwater salamander in the Central Texas region, which could further inflame tensions between property-rights advocates and environmentalists seeking to protect both the two- to three-inch-long, slimy amphibians and the clean, drinkable water supplies in which they live (and which we humans also favor).

In the same research paper, published in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the UT team (led by senior author David Hillis) also found that the Georgetown salamander, which only lives in Williamson County, is more threatened than previously thought. Although it is already protected as an endangered species under federal regulation, the researchers discovered the salamander inhabits a much smaller range around Lake Georgetown than was first identified. This smaller habitat range means the salamanders are at greater risk of being killed off by a disturbance to their environment.

One of the new unnamed species discovered by Hillis and his colleagues is described as a "tiny, golden-colored salamander" that lives near the Pedernales River and is "critically endangered." Previous work by Hillis and his colleagues and students has led to federal protections for several species, including the Barton Springs salamander, the Austin blind salamander, and the San Marcos salamander. The researchers hope the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will consider applying protected status to the new species.

Got something to say on the subject? Send a letter to the editor.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle