Conservation status and habitat use of the West Virginia spring salamander (Gyrinophilus subterraneus) and spring salamander (G. porphyriticus) in general davis cave, Greenbrier Co., West Virginia

Matthew L. Niemiller, Michael S. Osbourn, Dante B. Fenolio, Thomas K. Pauley, Brian T. Miller, John R. Holsinger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

The West Virginia Spring Salamander (Gyrinophilus subterraneus) is one of four obligate cave-dwelling species of plethodontid salamanders found east of the Mississippi River in the United States. This species is endemic to a single cave system; General Davis Cave, in Greenbrier Co., West Virginia, where it is syntopic with the closely-related Spring Salamander (G. porphyriticus). Accordingly, the West Virginia Spring Salamander is a species of critical conservation concern. Because of its conservation status and lack of data regarding the ecology and life history, particularly about population trends, we present data on relative abundance of and habitat use by the West Virginia Spring Salamander during a 33-year period from 1975-2008. Specifically we address: (1) stability of the population during the last 33 years; (2) variation in habitat use by life stage and between species (Spring Salamanders and West Virginia Spring Salamanders); (3) plausibility of neoteny in the West Virginia Spring Salamander; and (4) the conservation status of the West Virginia Spring Salamander. We recorded 324 observations of Gyrinophilus salamanders, of which 192 were West Virginia Spring Salamanders, within the study area during 17 surveys. While both larval and metamorphosed West Virginia Spring Salamanders were encountered, only metamorphosed Spring Salamanders were observed. West Virginia Spring Salamander larvae were encountered in pools more often than in riffle habitat. Spring Salamanders were encountered more often in terrestrial habitats versus aquatic habitats. West Virginia Spring Salamanders reach relatively large size before metamorphosing, with some individuals becoming sexual mature as larvae. It remains unknown whether any of these individuals reproduce, however. Although the populations of both species appear to be stable over the past 33 years and not in immediate danger of extinction, the West Virginia Spring Salamander is still of critical conservation concern because of its extremely restricted distribution and current threats to the cave system it resides in.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)32-43
Number of pages12
JournalHerpetological Conservation and Biology
Volume5
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 1 2010

Keywords

  • Cave-dwelling
  • Gyrinophilus
  • Neoteny
  • Spring salamander
  • Subterranean
  • Troglodyte
  • West virginia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology

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