Researchers discover new salamander species - Engineering & Natural Sciences

Researchers discover new salamander species

Information on a new salamander species discovered by TU biological science researchers is included in the latest issue of Zootaxa, an international journal for animal taxonomy. The paper, “A new species of paedomorphic salamander from the Ouachita Mountains of North America” provides details on the Ouachita Streambed Salamander, Eurycea subfluvicola, a new paedomorphic species only known from a single stream in Lake Catherine State Park near Hot Springs, Ark.

salamanderA single specimen of the new species was discovered in May 2011 by TU doctoral student Michael Steffen and Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Herpetologist Kelly Irwin while studying the genetic diversity of other salamanders in the region. “We found a large amount of genetic divergence between this specimen and other salamanders,” Steffen said.

Further analyses of this and additional specimens by Steffen, fellow graduate student Andrea Blair, and Associate Professor of Biological Science Ron Bonett showed that the new species was genetically, morphologically, and developmentally distinct from all other known salamanders. The new species retains aquatic larval juvenile characteristics into adulthood (paedomorphic) unlike most other salamanders that lose their gills and metamorphose before adulthood. These shifts in reproductive mode allow species to resemble juveniles of other related species and show that many other species may be undetected.

Among other species that have a similar type of life history, the TU team said the Ouachita Streambed Salamander is one of the most genetically distinct paedomorphic species of salamander identified in the United States within the past 70 years. This species currently has the smallest known range of any other amphibian in the country. To view the research paper in its entirety, please visit

Ron Bonett