The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences has reported the discovery of an undescribed species of salamander living in small streams in the Sandhills area.
North Carolina is a salamander paradise with 63 species already discovered, more than any other state in America. The 64 new species discovered by the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences exhibit a bright red color when ripe.
Biologists have named the new species Eurycea arenicola or the salamander Carolina Sandhills. They have long been observed by humans but are confused with the southern salamander Eurycea cirrigera. In a report published yesterday in the journal Herpetologica, the team led by biologist Alvin Braswell used gene sequencing technology and showed the genetic differences between the two species.
The first specimen of Eurycea arenicola was found by Braswell in October 1969, but at the time it was considered an “abnormal” individual in the population of Eurycea cirrigera. Over the following decades, however, more and more anomalous specimens were seen, prompting Braswell to question whether this was a new species.
“It turns out that the original specimen was misidentified. If you look closely you will see the Carolina Sandhills, the average size is smaller and mature individuals have a more pronounced red color than Eurycea cirrigera. ” , Braswell said.
Shortly after their discovery, the team placed the new salamander on the North Carilona Natural Heritage Program’s W3 Watchlist, which includes lesser-known species that need to be protected in the years to come. The biggest threat to Eurycea arenicola is habitat loss due to their small range.
“This research shows that there are still species waiting to be described in North Carolina. There is certainly a lot more to study on the salamander species in the state,” study co-author Bryan Stuart, curator of the Reptilia department at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences points out.