Species Boundaries and Species Diversity in the Central Texas Hemidactyliine Plethodontid Salamanders, Genus Eurycea


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Species Boundaries and Species Diversity in the Central Texas Hemidactyliine Plethodontid Salamanders, Genus Eurycea
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The Biology of Plethodontid Salamanders
Chippindale, Paul T.
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Salamanders of the genus Eurycea (Plethodontidae: Plethodontinae: Hemidactyliini) are widely distributed in eastern and south-central North America, reaching their westernmost limits in the Interior Highlands of the United States and the Edwards Plateau region of central Texas. Populations of Eurycea in the latter two areas probably represent relicts of previously more widely distributed taxa that became restricted to islands of moist or aquatic habitat during periods of drying (see Chippindale, 1995; Chippindale et al., in review; Potter and Sweet, 1981; Sweet, 1977b, 1978a, 1982; and Wake, 1966, for discussions of the biogeographic history of the group). This is particularly evident in central Texas, where populations of Eurycea are widely scattered and invariably are associated with spring outflows or caves that contain water. Nearly all central Texas populations of Eurycea are obligately aquatic and perennibranchiate, retaining gills and other larval features throughout their lives. Many cave populations are known, most of which probably originated from surface dwellers that moved underground due to disappearance of surface springs or stream capture (Sweet, 1978a,Sweet 1984). Cave-dwellers in the group exhibit a spectrum of cave-associated morphological features that include varying degrees of skin pigment and eye reduction, and in some cases osteological modifications such as broadening and flattening of the skull, limb elongation, and reduction in numbers of trunk vertebrae. The two species formerly assigned to the genus Typhlomolge represent the extreme in cave-associated morphological divergence. I will refer to these species as Eurycea rathbuni and E. robusta for the remainder of this chapter, and offer a more detailed explanation below.

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