Distribution and Abundance of Introduced Seal Salamanders (Desmognathus monticola) in Northwest Arkansas, USA

Clint L. Bush, Jacquelyn C. Guzy, Kelly M. Halloran, Meredith C. Swartwout, Chelsea S. Kross, John D. Willson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Many reptiles and amphibians are gaining recognition as harmful invaders, highlighted by well-known examples such as the Brown Tree Snake (Boiga irregularis), Cane Toad (Rhinella marina), American Bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianus), and Burmese Python (Python molurus bivittatus). In 2003, an introduced population of Seal Salamanders (Desmognathus monticola) was found in Spavinaw Creek, within the Ozark Plateau of northwest Arkansas. Genetic evidence confirmed an introduction from northern Georgia. Very little is known about the status of this non-native population; thus, the objective of this study was to assess the current distribution and abundance of non-native D. monticola along Spavinaw Creek. We conducted repeated, low-intensity visual surveys along the 30 km extent of Spavinaw Creek in Arkansas and used a hierarchical Bayesian analysis to model the occupancy response of D. monticola and five native salamander species relative to river mile and habitat covariates. We also conducted a short-term closed capture-mark-recapture study to estimate abundance of D. monticola at the original collection site on Spavinaw Creek. We found a clear geographic pattern of distribution of D. monticola, with individuals found throughout the upper 10 km of Spavinaw Creek headwaters, but no clear habitat associations. Estimated abundance of D. monticola was extremely high-14.5 individuals and 50 g wet biomass per m2. Our results reveal that introduced D. monticola are much more widely distributed than previously recognized and occur at high densities, suggesting that this recent invader could negatively affect ecosystems of Spavinaw Creek and surrounding watersheds in the Ozark highlands.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)680-690
Number of pages11
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 2017
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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