Comal Springs Salamander
Covered Species Information
Authored by Connor Helsel
The Comal Springs salamander (Eurycea sp.) is not listed as an endangered species, but rather as a species petitioned to be included on the federal list of threatened and endangered species. This species is commonly found in Landa Lake, the headwaters of Comal Springs located in New Braunfels, Texas. The Comal Springs salamander is referred to as an individual population, yet the species’ taxonomic status remains rather general (Eurycea sp.), as its exact linage is undetermined (Devitt et al., 2019; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service [USFWS], 2009). Recent genetic research suggests that the species may be a population of the Texas salamander (Eurycea neotenes; Bendik, 2007).
Regardless, the Comal Springs salamander faces threats to its survival and is of concern to the Edwards Aquifer Habitat Conservation Plan. Further study and clarification of taxonomy would allow for federal protection under the Endangered Species Act and the designation of critical habitat (Bendik, 2007).
Comal Springs salamander
Endangered Species Act status
Physical description and Life History
The species’ life history is largely undefined, and no formal species description has been published. Though, the Comal Springs salamander is said to be physically similar to the San Marcos salamander (Eurycea nana; Campbell & Crow, 2017).
Eurycea in the region are neotenic, meaning they retain traits from early life stages, such as gills and tail fins, throughout their entire life cycle and are restricted to aquatic habitats all their lives (Lucas et al., 2008).
The wild lifespan of the Comal Springs salamander is largely unknown, but an individual survived in captivity at the San Marcos National Fish Hatchery and Technology Center for more than eight years (USFWS, 2013).
The Comal Springs salamander is known only to inhabit Comal Springs in Landa Park and Landa Lake, New Braunfels, Texas (USFWS, 2009).
Habitat and Diet
The Comal Springs salamander is considered to have a similar feeding and habitat preferences to the San Marcos salamander (Campbell & Crow, 2017). Spring-associated Eurycea rely on the stable conditions of the spring system, a constant water temperature range, ample dissolved oxygen, silt-free substrate, aquatic vegetation for cover and small invertebrate prey (Edwards Aquifer Recovery Implementation Program, 2012; Lucas et al., 2008).
Bendik, N. F. (2007). Population Genetics, Systematics, Biogeography, And Evolution Of The Southeastern Central Texas Eurycea Clade blepsimolge (Plethodontidae). http://hdl.handle.net/10106/332
Campbell, L., & Crow, J. (2017). Captive Propagation Eurycea sp. 41. http://edwards.stagingsoftware.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/2017-Refugia-Appendices.pdf
Devitt, T. J., Wright, A. M., Cannatella, D. C., & Hillis, D. M. (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. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1815014116
Edwards Aquifer Recovery Implementation Program. (2012). Habitat Conservation Plan https://www.edwardsaquifer.net/pdf/Final_HCP.pdf
Lucas, L. K., Gompert, Z., Ott, J. R., & Nice, C. C. (2008). Geographic and genetic isolation in spring-associated Eurycea salamanders endemic to the Edwards Plateau region of Texas. Conservation Genetics, 10(5), 1309–1319. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10592-008-9710-2
Lucas, L.K., Gompert, Z., Gibson, J.R., Bell, K.L., Buerkle, C.A. and Nice, C.C. (2016). Pervasive Gene Flow Across Critical Habitat for Four Narrowly Endemic, Sympatric Taxa. Freshwater Biology, 61, 933–946. https://doi.org/10.1111/fwb.12758
Nelson, J., M. (1993). Population Size, Distribution, and Life History of Eurycea nana in the San Marcos River [Southwest Texas State University]. http://edwards.stagingsoftware.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/1993_Nelson_Eurycea-nana.pdf
Sweet, S. (1978). On the Status of Eurycea pterophila (Amphibia: Plethodontidae). Herpetologica, 34(1), 101-108. www.jstor.org/stable/3891618
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. (2009). Part 3 Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service Endangered and threatened wildlife and plants; partial 90-day finding on a petition to list 475 species in the southwestern United States as threatened or endangered with critical habitat; proposed rule. 74 Fed. Reg. 66866-66905 (Dec. 16, 2009) (to be codified at 50 C.F.R. pt. 17).
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. (2013). Biological Opinion for the Edwards Aquifer Recovery Implementation Program HCP (No. 21450-2010-F-0110). Ecological Services Field Office. Austin, TX.