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Description

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Completely aquatic and gilled throughout life. Among mudpuppies and waterdogs (genus Necturus), this species is medium-sized. All mudpuppies and waterdogs have bushy external gills, two gill slits, a laterally compressed tail, and four toes on front and hind feet. Adult Alabama waterdogs measure 10-13 cm snout to vent length (15-22 cm total length). The dorusm is reddish brown to nearly black. Some populations have spots on the dorsum. The venter lacks spots in all age classes. Tips of the toes are light colored. The body and head are flattened. Sexually mature males can be distinguished by the swollen cloaca and pair of enlarged cloacal papillae that project posteriorly. Hatchlings are mottled dorsally with a few light spots. In some populations, juveniles have light stripes on the head and back, similar to juveniles of N. maculosus. Juveniles have a dark eye stripe running from the nostril, through the eye to the gills. The stripe is retained in adults. (Neill 1963; Bart et al. 1997; Petranka 1998; Bailey and Moler 2003).

Sympatric with N. beyeri in some localities, but these species differ in body shape (flattened in N. alabamensis vs. near cylindrical in N. beyeri), ventral coloration (absence vs. presence of spots), and microhabitat use (shelter under rocks or debris, active on the bottom vs. living in burrows, and frequently active in the water column) (Neill. 1963; Bart et al. 1997).

The systematics of Necturus in general, and N. alabamensis in particular, have been quite problematic. Some authors have doubted that the Alabama waterdog is a separate species from the Gulf Coast waterdog (N. beyeri). Although they co-occur in some areas, these forms are apparently distinct in microhabitat preference, morphology, and with respect to genes (Neill 1963; Guttman et al. 1990; Bart et al. 1997). Populations of Necturus from the Coastal Plain have sometimes been assigned to this species, but they are now tentatively assigned to N. beyeri. (Bailey and Moler 2003).See Petranka (1998) and Bailey and Moler (2003)for further discussion.

Necturus alabamensis, N. beyeri, and N. maculosus are relatively closely related (Guttman et al. 1990).

References

  • Bailey, M. A., and Moler, P. E. (). ''Necturus alabamensis Viosca. Black Warrior Waterdog.'' Catalogue of American Amphibians and Reptiles. Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles, .-..
  • Bart, H. L., Jr., Bailey, M. A., Ashton, R. E., Jr., and Moler, P. E. (). ''Taxonomic and nomenclatural status of the Upper Black Warrior River Waterdog.'' Journal of Herpetology, , -.
  • Guttman, S. I., Weigt, L. A., Moler, P. E., Ashton, R. E., Jr., Mansell, B. W. and Peavy, J. (). ''An electrophoretic analysis of Necturus form the southeastern United States.'' Journal of Herpetology, (), -.
  • Neill, W. T. (). "Notes on the Alabama waterdog, Necturus alabamensis Viosca." Herpetologica, , -.

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Distribution and Habitat

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Restricted to the Black Warrior River Basin of Alabama (Bailey and Moler 2003).Apparently prefers streams with logjams, woody or leafy debris, or rocks that provide cover and are likely oviposition sites. The flattened body of this species may be correlated with its habit of hiding under rocks and other cover (Neill 1963; Petranka 1998).

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Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors

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Relatively little is known about the natural history of this species. Individuals are rarely found during summer months. Breeding season is December through February and animals are abundant at this time. Animals are active on the bottom at night, frequently on cold stormy nights when it rains. Diet includes earthworms (Neill 1963). Mudpuppies and waterdogs are nearly inactive in the summer. Animals caught in the autumn may be quite lean compared with their condition in the winter and spring when they are in reproductive readiness (Bart et al. 1997).

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Relation to Humans

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Mudpuppies and waterdogs are sometimes found in the pet trade.

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Alabama waterdog

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The Alabama waterdog (Necturus alabamensis) is a medium-sized perennibranch salamander inhabiting rivers and streams of Alabama. It is listed as endangered by the IUCN and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.[1]

Description

The Alabama waterdog is medium-sized at 15–22 cm (5.9–8.7 in), with four toes and a laterally compressed tail. Its gills are permanent, bushy, and red. Typical adults exhibit a brown or black dorsum with minimal or no spotting, and the ventral side is white and often not spotted.

Distribution and habitat

The Alabama waterdog is found in the Appalachian headwaters of the Black Warrior River drainage basin in Alabama. Its range includes the Sipsey Fork and Brushy Creek in Winston County, the Mulberry Fork, Blackwater Creek, and Lost Creek in Walker County, the North River and Yellow Creek in Tuscaloosa County, and the Locust Fork and Blackburn Fork in Blount County.[1] It is found in unsilted small and medium-sized streams in clay areas. It is more likely to be present when the larvae of the northern dusky salamander (Desmognathus fuscus) are present and less likely in streams where Asiatic mussels are abundant. The areas of dead leaves and detritus sometimes found in backwaters are important for this species.[2]

Diet

N. alabamensis typically consumes invertebrates such as crayfish, amphipods, and insect larvae, as well as vertebrates such as small fish.

Taxonomy

The taxonomy of N. alabamensis is poorly understood. It is believed to be related to N. maculosus and N. beyeri. It is known to hybridize with N. beyeri, though electrophoretical evidence suggests they are separate species.

Status

The survival of N. alabamensis is threatened by habitat fragmentation and pollution and the IUCN has listed it as "Endangered". The quality of the water has deteriorated due to industrial, mining, agricultural, and urban pollution, and various impoundments have been made inhibiting its free movement.[1] Even within the best habitats in their range, they are uncommon and their abundance may fluctuate.[2] On 2 January 2018, the Alabama waterdog gained federal protection under the Endangered Species Act of 1973. Along with its listing, 420 river miles of critical habitat gained protection from activities that could be injurious to the salamander. Parties wishing to undertake actions that may damage the salamander's critical habitat must now apply for a federal permit to do so.[3]

References

  1. ^ a b c d Geoffrey Hammerson; Mark Bailey (2004). "Necturus alabamensis". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2004: e.T59430A11940680. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2004.RLTS.T59430A11940680.en.
  2. ^ a b Bailey, Mark A. "Necturus alabamensis Viosca, 1937: Black Warrior Waterdog". AmphibiaWeb. Retrieved 2014-01-09.
  3. ^ Tierra, Curry (2 January 2018). "Alabama Salamander Gains Endangered Species Act Protection". Center for Biological Diversity. Tucson, AZ. Retrieved 4 January 2018.

General references

  • Petranka, James W. (1998) Salamanders of the United States and Canada, Washington and London: Smithsonian Institution Press.
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Alabama waterdog: Brief Summary

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The Alabama waterdog (Necturus alabamensis) is a medium-sized perennibranch salamander inhabiting rivers and streams of Alabama. It is listed as endangered by the IUCN and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.

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