SPOTTED: 2nd and 3rd Specimens of Endangered Salamander

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SPOTTED: 2nd and 3rd Specimens of Endangered Salamander

Post by HERP.MX » May 17th, 2016, 4:28 am

SPOTTED: 2nd and 3rd Specimens of Endangered Salamander in Mexico

The rare Nimble Long-limbed Salamander, Nyctanolis pernix, hadn't been seen on Mexican soil since 1972 when a single specimen was collected in Chiapas by Scott Belfit. All of that changed this month when the HERP.MX​ field expedition to the southern state detected not one, but two new specimens in a mountain cave.

This unique species was described in 1982 by Paul Elias and David Wake ( ... pernix.pdf) and is the only member of the genus Nyctanlis. Previously known from just four localties (three in Guatemala and one in Mexico), this new discovery represents a fifth site, and gives hope that this endangered salamander might be more widespread than previously suspected.


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Re: SPOTTED: 2nd and 3rd Specimens of Endangered Salamander

Post by TravisK » May 17th, 2016, 11:43 am

WOW, I hope their habitat stays protected. Thanks for sharing that, it is a very gorgeous species to say the least.

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Jeroen Speybroeck
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Re: SPOTTED: 2nd and 3rd Specimens of Endangered Salamander

Post by Jeroen Speybroeck » May 17th, 2016, 12:10 pm

You guys sure are turning up exciting stuff! Thanks for sharing it here with us (and not only on FB).

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Re: SPOTTED: 2nd and 3rd Specimens of Endangered Salamander

Post by Kelly Mc » May 17th, 2016, 11:22 pm

Outstanding ..again!

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Sam Sweet
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Re: SPOTTED: 2nd and 3rd Specimens of Endangered Salamander

Post by Sam Sweet » May 21st, 2016, 11:40 pm

This is great news! Between habitat loss and disease, the known-to-science lifespan of several of these wacko Guatemalan-Chiapan bolitoglossines has been way too short.

Here is a short story that is not too widely known. I was laboring on my dissertation in Berkeley during the first summer that Paul Elias spent in Guatemala, and was the only salamander person available at MVZ one late afternoon when a call came in that a large package had arrived unaccompanied at SF airport, and had been seized by Customs. I drove down, and found a monumental mess. Paul had wrapped a number of glass jars full of formalin and salamanders in a poncho around a backpack frame, then duct-taped various plastic freezer trays and trash bags full of live and pickled amphibians to that, inside another poncho.

Well. Several of the jars had been broken in transit, and the entire pile was soaked and stinking, so it was set out on a loading dock and had been seized by everybody -- by Customs because it had no declarations, by USFWS because there were animals and no permits, and by Public Health because it was a definite hazard. I borrowed a hose and washed it down some, then sat around for an hour while the various authorities argued over who had seized it first and most and best. Customs finally pulled rank and told me to either open it or agree to its incineration. I had seen there were live animals in plastic bags in freezer trays in the wad and got those out first, washing off formalin as I went. The first bag had a couple of the most bizarre salamanders I had ever seen, thick and blunt at the head and tapering fast, like cocktail carrots, with tiny feet scrunched up. Then there were a few Bolitoglossa (but not B. jacksoni, which turned up a year later), and finally a couple of black jumpers, like Eurycea lucifuga on crack, but jet black with red dots shading to yellow down the back. Absolutely unique, there was nothing in the world like them. They had no names then, but today are called Bradytriton and Nyctanolis


I got all the pickled stuff sorted out and gave Customs all the soaked wrappings for their incinerator, then FWS wanted a listing of all the species being imported. “OK, but these are undescribed” “Can’t import them without scientific names” “OK, these are Hotdoggytriton lotus (for their bound feet), and this one is Fokkincaramba fiesta.” They wrote it down, along with Bolitoglossa woohoo and Duckfootus davewakei and I don’t remember what else – they are duly listed in the Federal Register for 1974 as “species imported into the US”. Once that was done and on the promise of Guatemalan permits being sent down from MVZ, USFWS was OK with the process and lifted their seizure. I figured Public Health was done too, the formalin being gone, but no – “you have to have a Veterinary Certificate that the live animals are disease-free, or we have to take them and burn them.” That wasn’t going to happen, but it was also 0245, and a standoff ensued. After about an hour a Customs guy came by, heard the story, and wrapped Customs seizure tape over the PHS seizure tape and said he was pulling rank and I had to get that stinking wad out of their workplace.

There’s a little more to the story that I can’t share here, but that’s how the Cuchumatanes plethodontids first turned up in the US. I called Dave Wake at a decent hour in the morning and said he ought to come by the museum. “I’m sure it can wait until Monday”. “No Dave, come down here now.”

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Re: SPOTTED: 2nd and 3rd Specimens of Endangered Salamander

Post by Calfirecap » May 22nd, 2016, 4:22 am

And now you know the rest of the story. :beer:
Thanks Sam, that's a great story.

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Re: SPOTTED: 2nd and 3rd Specimens of Endangered Salamander

Post by daniel » May 22nd, 2016, 4:28 am

What a fantastic story! Thank you for sharing it.

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Re: SPOTTED: 2nd and 3rd Specimens of Endangered Salamander

Post by chrish » May 22nd, 2016, 11:03 am

That's a neat looking salamander. Looks a bit like Ixalotriton? I wonder how they are related.

Did you find these near Montebellos? I thought that had been deforested. Glad to know some stuff wasn't wiped out.

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Don Cascabel
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Re: SPOTTED: 2nd and 3rd Specimens of Endangered Salamander

Post by Don Cascabel » May 23rd, 2016, 12:54 pm

Awesome story Sam. You guys did a great job describing the Neotropical Salamanders. I have heard several interesting stories about the old MVZ collections... Including shipping bromeliads!

Chris, both Montebello and where we were is extremely deforested... Maybe that's why these buggers were in a cave!



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