Eurycea longicaudaLong-tailed Salamander

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Geographic Range

Eurycea longicauda is mainly distributed throughout the Ozark Highlands, Appalachian Highlands, and the Ohio River Valley. Long-tailed salamanders range from southeastern Missouri through extreme southern Illinois, throughout most of Kentucky, central and western Tennessee, extreme northeastern Mississippi, northern Alabama, northern Georgia, extreme southwestern and northwestern North Carolina, western Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, southern New York, and in the north from extreme eastern Illinois, west through southern Indiana and into southern and eastern Ohio (Lannoo 2005). Map (Lannoo, 2005)

Habitat

Long-tailed salamanders typically inhabit streams, limestone seeps, springs, caves, abandoned mines, wet shale banks, and ponds. Because of their bi-phasic lifecycle, both aquatic and terrestrial habitats are needed. Larvae grow in aquatic environments, such as streams, ponds, or cave pools, while adults are typically terrestrial, found underneath rocks, crevices, and stone fragments near the margins of streams. ("Eurycea longicauda (Longtail Salamander)", 2004; "Eurycea longicauda longicauda (Green), Long-tailed salamander - Biodiversity of Great Smoky Mountains National Park", 2007; "LONGTAIL SALAMANDER (Eurycea longicauda)", 2002; "Long-tailed Salamander, Eurycea longicauda longicauda", 2011; Lannoo, 2005; "Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of New Jersey", 2007)

  • Aquatic Biomes
  • lakes and ponds
  • rivers and streams
  • Other Habitat Features
  • caves
  • Range elevation
    0 to 700 m
    0.00 to 2296.59 ft

Physical Description

Long-tailed salamanders are typically yellow, but body color may range from yellow to red. Adults are between 100 and 200 mm long, with the tail making up about 60% of total body length. Long-tailed salamanders have large eyes and a slender body with stout limbs. A key characteristic of E. longicauda is a row of irregularly shaped, dark stripes found on the long, slender tail. Adult bodies have dark dashes or dots and may contain a broad dorsal band. The belly is colored light yellow to cream.

There are three recognized subspecies: Eurycea longicauda longicauda (long-tailed salamanders), Eurycea guttolineata (three-lined salamanders), and Eurycea longicauda melanopleura (dark-sided salamanders). Three-lined salamanders are identified by their coloration, which varies between yellow and bronze, as well as the three dark lines that run along the body and tail. Dark-sided salamanders are identified by two dark lines running along the sides of the body and tail with a lighter band running dorsally.

Long-tailed salamander larvae are aquatic and have features missing in terrestrial adults, including branching gills, slim bodies, and a tail fin that does not extend to the body. Larvae also differ from adults in that they have a cream colored dorsal pattern. ("Eurycea longicauda (Longtail Salamander)", 2004; "Eurycea longicauda longicauda (Green), Long-tailed salamander - Biodiversity of Great Smoky Mountains National Park", 2007; "LONGTAIL SALAMANDER (Eurycea longicauda)", 2002; "Long-tailed Salamander, Eurycea longicauda longicauda", 2011; Arnold, et al., 2008; Lannoo, 2005; "Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of New Jersey", 2007)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike
  • Range length
    100 to 200 mm
    3.94 to 7.87 in

Development

The larval period of long-tailed salamanders is typically 6 months. However, timing may vary among populations. In order to survive, aquatic larvae need shelter and food, which they find in a variety of aquatic invertebrates, including ostracods, copepods, and snails. If there is an insufficient food supply, metamorphosis may be delayed for a year and larvae may overwinter. The metamorphosis size of long-tailed salamanders is 23 to 28mm snout to vent length but, if overwintering occurs, they can be greater than 50 mm in total length. ("Eurycea longicauda longicauda (Green), Long-tailed salamander - Biodiversity of Great Smoky Mountains National Park", 2007; Lannoo, 2005)

Reproduction

The mating system of E. longicauda has not been studied extensively and remains largely unknown. The only known courtship behavior is head-rubbing. (Lannoo, 2005)

Main breeding activity occurs during late fall to early spring. Females lay 60 to 110 eggs in water, attached to the underside of rocks. Time to hatching ranges from 4 to 12 weeks. Long-tailed salamanders are sexually mature at an average age of 2 years old. (Lannoo, 2005)

  • Breeding interval
    Long-tailed salamanders breed once yearly.
  • Breeding season
    Females lay their eggs between late autumn and early spring, depending on latitude and altitude.
  • Range number of offspring
    60 to 110
  • Range time to hatching
    4 to 12 weeks
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    2 years
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    2 years

There is little information on parental investment in E. longicauda. However, like most salamanders, females leave aquatic habitats after laying eggs, so there is little parental involvement after egg-laying.

  • Parental Investment
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female

Lifespan/Longevity

This species is rarely bred in captivity and there is no information on its lifespan in the wild. Other plethodontids live as much as 5 to 10 years in the wild. ("Eurycea longicauda longicauda (Green), Long-tailed salamander - Biodiversity of Great Smoky Mountains National Park", 2007)

  • Typical lifespan
    Status: wild
    5 to 10 years

Behavior

Adults exhibit seasonal patterns in habitat use. For example, during periods of heavy rain, adults migrate uphill. Also, adults are known to migrate into and out of caves and mine shafts. (Lannoo, 2005)

Home Range

Long-tailed salamanders can cover a considerable distance over a year but their home range size is unclear. This is attributed to the fact that many juveniles and adults spend most of their time underground. (Lannoo, 2005)

Communication and Perception

Long-tailed salamanders communicate in similar ways to other plethodontid salamanders, using pheromones. These chemical signals are very important especially in mating rituals. Courtship rituals occur mainly aquatically, and one account reports tactile interactions as well. During mating, plethodontids typically exhibit head-rubbing, which serves a communicative purpose. Long-tailed salamanders have developed senses of smell and sight allowing them the ability to perceive its environment either visually or chemically. (Arnold, et al., 2008; Lannoo, 2005)

Food Habits

Long-tailed salamanders typically eat adult and immature arthropods, worms, and other terrestrial invertebrates. Although all adults are invertebrate generalists, the types of invertebrates preyed on depends on the environment. For example, in New Jersey, spiders, homopterans, beetles, and moths and butterflies are the main diet. However, in one Indiana population, more than 20 types of invertebrates are eaten. (Lannoo, 2005)

  • Animal Foods
  • insects
  • terrestrial non-insect arthropods
  • terrestrial worms

Predation

Anti-predator mechanisms have not been studied extensively in this species, but one mechanism has been observed. When threatened, individuals display a defensive posture with an elevated tail, and the tail autotomizes (breaks off) when the salamander is handled. Also, long-tailed salamanders are quick, able to bolt for cover when threatened. (Lannoo, 2005)

  • Anti-predator Adaptations
  • cryptic

Ecosystem Roles

Long-tailed salamanders are predators on both terrestrial and aquatic invertebrates. They are also important competitors in cave environments with other salamanders. Long-tailed salamander larvae appear to be competitive equals with larval cave salamanders (Eurycea lucifuga), but they appear to be displaced by several other salamander species. (Lannoo, 2005)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Long-tailed salamanders may help in pest control because they feed on various terrestrial invertebrates, but their effect on humans is minimal. (Lannoo, 2005)

  • Positive Impacts
  • controls pest population

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no known adverse effects of E. longicauda on humans.

Conservation Status

Long-tailed salamanders remain locally abundant, but populations have declined due to habitat loss from strip mining, acid drainage from coal mining, and clear cutting. This species has been listed as threatened in both Kansas and New Jersey and is a species of special concern in North Carolina. In New Jersey, long-tailed salamanders were listed as a threatened species in 1979. This was attributed to the decline of natural habitats and pollution of larval ponds. The New Jersey Freshwater Wetlands Protection Act helped protect long-tailed salamanders in New Jersey by outlawing the development of wetland areas and "buffers." Buffers are protected areas within 150 feet of wetlands. In Kansas, the long-tailed salamanders are protected by the Kansas Nongame and Endangered Species Conservation Act. This act requires project developers to obtain a permit from the Environmental Services Section of the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks anytime a development project is proposed that will impact the natural habitats of the species. ("Eurycea longicauda (Longtail Salamander)", 2004; "LONGTAIL SALAMANDER (Eurycea longicauda)", 2002; "Long-tailed Salamander, Eurycea longicauda longicauda", 2011; "Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of New Jersey", 2007)

Contributors

Jonathan Haun (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Rachelle Sterling (editor), Special Projects, Phil Myers (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Tanya Dewey (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Glossary

Nearctic

living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

World Map

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

carnivore

an animal that mainly eats meat

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

cryptic

having markings, coloration, shapes, or other features that cause an animal to be camouflaged in its natural environment; being difficult to see or otherwise detect.

ectothermic

animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature

external fertilization

fertilization takes place outside the female's body

fertilization

union of egg and spermatozoan

forest

forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.

freshwater

mainly lives in water that is not salty.

heterothermic

having a body temperature that fluctuates with that of the immediate environment; having no mechanism or a poorly developed mechanism for regulating internal body temperature.

indeterminate growth

Animals with indeterminate growth continue to grow throughout their lives.

insectivore

An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.

iteroparous

offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).

metamorphosis

A large change in the shape or structure of an animal that happens as the animal grows. In insects, "incomplete metamorphosis" is when young animals are similar to adults and change gradually into the adult form, and "complete metamorphosis" is when there is a profound change between larval and adult forms. Butterflies have complete metamorphosis, grasshoppers have incomplete metamorphosis.

migratory

makes seasonal movements between breeding and wintering grounds

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

nocturnal

active during the night

oviparous

reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.

pheromones

chemicals released into air or water that are detected by and responded to by other animals of the same species

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

social

associates with others of its species; forms social groups.

tactile

uses touch to communicate

temperate

that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).

terrestrial

Living on the ground.

vibrations

movements of a hard surface that are produced by animals as signals to others

visual

uses sight to communicate

References

State of New Jersey. 2007. Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of New Jersey. Trenton, NJ: Department of Environmental Protection.

2004. "Eurycea longicauda (Longtail Salamander)" (On-line). Accessed March 20, 2010 at http://www.iucnredlist.org/apps/redlist/details/59268/0.

2007. "Eurycea longicauda longicauda (Green), Long-tailed salamander - Biodiversity of Great Smoky Mountains National Park" (On-line). Accessed March 20, 2010 at http://www.dlia.org/atbi/species/Animalia/Chordata/Amphibia/Urodela/Plethodontidae/Eurycea_longicauda.shtml.

2002. "LONGTAIL SALAMANDER (Eurycea longicauda)" (On-line). Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks. Accessed March 20, 2010 at http://www.kdwp.state.ks.us/news/Other-Services/Threatened-and-Endangered-Species/Threatened-and-Endangered-Species/Species-Information/LONGTAIL-SALAMANDER.

2011. "Long-tailed Salamander, Eurycea longicauda longicauda" (On-line). Accessed March 20, 2010 at http://www.state.nj.us/dep/fgw/ensp/pdf/end-thrtened/lngtlsalamander.pdf.

Arnold, S., K. Kiemnec, H. Godwin. 2008. A Recombinant Courtship Pheromone Affects Sexual Receptivity in a Plethodontid Salamander. Cary, NC: Oxford University Press.

Lannoo, M. 2005. Amphibian Declines: The Conservation Status of United States Species. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.