Photo courtesy of Nathan Bendik
Georgetown Salamander (Eurycea naufragia)
Among the endangered plants and animals is the Eurycea naufragia, more commonly known as the Georgetown Salamander. It ranks as one of five endangered species of interest that occurs in the Brazos River basin.
The Georgetown Salamander is listed as Federally Endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service due to a limited geographical range and the decline of its habitat. Threats to this species include expanding municipal development and mining operations.
Current Range Map
The Georgetown Salamander is known only at spring outflows in the San Gabriel River watershed in Georgetown.
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The Georgetown Salamander is one of many spring-associated salamanders of its type found in the Edwards Aquifer system. The San Marcos and Barton Springs Salamanders receive much attention due to their proximity to major human recreation areas and limited geographic distribution. These salamanders are indicator species as the health of their numbers are affected by changes in water quality and the decline in their habitat due to environmental changes and pollution generated by humans.
The Georgetown Salamander lives in the water under rocks and in gravel. This species only occupies spring outflows, which are characterized by clear water, stable temperatures, and stable water chemistry. Water characteristics change greatly with distance from the spring outflow, and salamander populations decline quickly with minimal distance from the springs.
Little is known about the reproduction of the Georgetown Salamander. However, this species likely deposits eggs in gravel substrates in the same habitat that the adults occupy. These salamanders are paedomorphic, meaning they retain some juvenile characteristics as adults. The larvae hatch with external gills that are retained through the juvenile stage into the adult form.
The Georgetown Salamander reproduces in winter and spring, based on pregnant females, but no salamander eggs have been observed in its habitat.
Ongoing Research/Conservation Efforts
A recent study found the Georgetown Salamander’s range to be more restricted than previously determined, according to the National Academy of Sciences. With funding from the Williamson County Conservation Foundation, researchers at Southwestern University examined the salamanders’ movement within the spring complex and supported existing research that this species moves very little within or away from the spring outflow. Studies have shown tail loss by autotomy, or self-amputation, as a response to predators, in Georgetown Salamanders, but the direct cause of tail loss in this species is still unknown.
For more information about the Georgetown Salamander, go to:
- Devitt, T. J., A. M. Wright, D. C. Cannatella, & D. M. Hillis. 2019. Species delimitation in endangered groundwater salamanders: Implications for aquifer management and biodiversity conservation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 116(7), 2624-2633.
- Gutierrez, A. M., S.T. Guess, and B.A. Pierce. 2018. Within-spring movement of the Georgetown salamander (Eurycea naufragia). Herpetological Conservation and Biology, 13(2), 383-390.
- Pierce, B. A., K. D. McEntire, and A. E. Wall. 2014. Population size, movement, and reproduction of the Georgetown Salamander, Eurycea naufragia. Herpetological Conservation and Biology, 9(1), 137-145.
Read more about the other endangered species of interest here.