Texas Blind Salamander

ANIMAL:
Texas Blind Salamander Eurycea rathbuni

Type of Animal:
Salamander

Habitat:
Unlit underground waters in water-filled caves/caverns & wells as well as underground streams, deep recesses, deep pools w/ minimal current

Location(s):
Areas of Edwards Aquifer in Hays County, Texas

Appearance:
White to pale pink color w/ blood-red external gills, flat head/snout, vestigial eyes covered by skin, toothpick-like legs, slender build, translucent skin, finned tail

Food/Diet:
Snails, shrimp, amphipods, smaller members of own species

Status in Wild:
Threatened

Conservation:
Breeding in zoos, aquariums, & labs. Breeding program established at San Marcos Fish Hatchery in 1977.

Lifestyle:
Small groups of 4-8
 
Additional Info:

Called:
Male
Female
Young: Larva
Group: Congress/Colony

Gestation:
1 month

Life Span:
5-10 years

Body Length:
Male: 2.5 in
Female: 3 in
Young: 0.39 in

Tail Length:
Male: 1.97 in
Female: 3.54 in
Young: 0.195 in 

Top predators in underground cave habitat.
 
Able to breed year round.
 
Neotenic (never fully metamorphose), remaining in juvenile-like aquatic stage whole lives.
 
Strictly aquatic, never leaving water.
 
Threatened due to water pollution, restricted range, overuse of water, overpumping, development, decreasing water levels, overcollection, farming, irrigation, mining, & sensitivity to changes in water pressure.
 
Females initiate courtship, approaching male, rubbing chin on dorsal area. Females also rub cloaca on nearby rocks while rocking to & fro. If males don’t respond, female may nip male along sides or engage in kicking behavior in which gravel scratched w/ hind limbs. Female then straddles male’s tail, rubbing her snout above tail base. Male arches pelvic area, fanning tail between her legs. Female then rubs snout more rapidly over tail base. Male leads female forward, repeating same cycle while slowly vibrating anterior 3rd of tail. Male then bends body laterally, moving tail at lateral right angle to body while female continues rubbing tail base. Male leads female forward, bending body into S-shaped pattern, depositing spermatophore on substrate. Then he leads female forward w/ tail extended laterally until she picks up spermatophore cap w/ cloacal lips.
 
Also called Texas Blind Cave Salamander or Texas Cave Salamander.
 
Females lay clutches of 3-35 eggs.

Fun Fact(s):
1st discovered in 1895 during completion of well to supply Federal Fish Hatchery in San Marcos. Cavern in Edwards Limestone formation, penetrated at 196 ft, was water source for hatchery as well as salamander.
 
Due to spending lives in darkness, they lack pigment.
 
Like name says, they can’t see. They don’t need to since they live in dark unlit places. Since they can’t see, they use smell, vibration, & pressure to sample environment.
Texas Blind Salamander, stock photo

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