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Herpetologists' League

A New Species of Salamander, Genus Amphiuma, from Florida

Author(s): Wilfred T. Neill
Source: Herpetologica, Vol. 20, No. 1 (Apr. 17, 1964), pp. 62-66
Published by: Allen Press on behalf of the Herpetologists' League
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A New Species of Salamander, Genus Amphiuma,
From Florida


On the night of September 8, 1950, I collected aquatic sala-

manders in Levy County, Florida, between Otter Creek and Cedar
Keys. Most of the area had been inundated by torrential rains ac-
companying a hurricane. Flood waters had washed away the mucky
pond and stream bottoms, routing out the local fauna. Siren lacer-
tina, Pseudobranchus striatus lustricolus, and Amphiuma means
were found in roadside ditches or swimming across the flooded
highway. The last-named species was especially common; 37 indi-
viduals were collected, and many more could have been taken.
Those collected (WTN US2638-US2674), after preservation, ranged
in total length from 181 to a record-breaking 1,160 mm. This series
afforded an excellent idea of the species' variation in one area.
Also taken were two Amphiuma which, even in the water and at
night, looked quite different from the others, in both proportions
and coloration. Upon laboratory examination they proved to be
distinct from A. means and A. tridactylum. In 1963, I discovered
three additional specimens of the new form in the collection of the
University of Florida. I propose that this salamander be called:
Amphiuma pholeter sp. nov.
Type.-WTN US2675 (to be deposited in the collection of the
University of Florida); 4.5 miles NE by E Rosewood, Levy County,
Florida; September 8, 1950; W. T. Neill and Ross Allen, collectors.
Diagnosis.-Distinguished from both Amphiuma tridactylum
Cuvier and A. mean-sGarden by the following characters: (1) Each
limb terminating in a single digit; (2) forelimb shorter, failing to
reach or barely reaching the ear opening when adpressed; (3)
hindlimb shorter, falling well short of the vent when adpressed; (4)
head shorter, contained 14.9 to 15.7 times in total length; (5) out-
line of head, viewed from above, forming a smooth parabola; (6)
eye smaller; (7) dorsum lighter and venter darker, with little con-
trast between the two shades; (8) body usually [4 specimens out
of 5] with lighter mottlings, irregularly distributed; (9) probably
dwarfed, largest specimen 271 mm. in total length.
In Amphiuma means the forelimb, bearing two digits, overlaps
the ear opening when adpressed in the direction thereof; and the
hindlimb, also with two digits, overlaps the vent. The head is
longer. The 15 smallest examples of the Levy County series, rough-
ly comparable to the A. pholeter specimens in size, ranged in total
length from 181 to 305 mm.; and in these the head length (meas-


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ured from tip of snout to posterior margin of ear opening) was

contained in the total length 11.9 to 13.3 times, with 13 of the 15
specimens falling within the range 12.0 to 13.0. The outline of the
head, viewed from above, is broadened at the level of the ear
openings, then constricted between the level of the ear openings
and that of the eyes, then slightly broadened again at the approxi-
mate level of the eyes. The maximum diameter of the eye, in a
specimen with a total length of 271 mm., was 2.3 mm., as compared
with 1.5 mm. in a pholeter of the same total length. The dorsum
of means is considerably darker than the venter. Rarely means is
as light dorsally as pholeter, but such specimens are then very
light ventrally; occasionally a means is as dark ventrally as pholeter,
but such specimens are then very dark dorsally. A. tridactylum
differs even more widely from pholeter, having longer limbs with
three digits, and a marked contrast between dark dorsum and pale
Additional Material.-WTN US2676; 6 miles NE by E Rose-
wood, Levy County, Florida; September 8, 1950; W. T. Neill and
Ross Allen, collectors. UF 7755 (2); 32mile W Capps, Jefferson
County, Florida; February 3, 1956; William J. Riemer, collector.
UF 573; Liberty County, Florida; April 11, 1935; Archie F. Carr,
Description of Type.-Total length 271, head length 17.3, tail
length 63, head width 10, maximum body width 14.4, forelimb
length 2.4 and 2.2, hindlimb length 2 and 1.8 mm. Each limb a
tiny, bristle-like structure. Costal grooves about 65, difficult to
count as a result of secondary grooves or wrinklings. Basal half of
tail stout, 7 mm. high at the base and equally wide; distal 20 mm.
of tail vertically flattened. Eye minute, about 1.5 mm. in maximum
diameter. Uniform grayish brown above (in preservative), close to
8 E 8 in Maerz and Paul (1959); venter about 8 A 10. The head
shape and general proportions are illustrated (Fig. 1). There are
no external characters whereby the sex may be determined, and
dissection was deemed undesirable.
Variaticon.-WTN US2676: total length 235, head length 15.8
mm.; vague light mottlings on dorsum of head and body. UF
7755-1: total length 243, head length 15.7 mm. UF 7755-2: total
length 215, head length 14.1 mm.; pale gray mottling dorsally,
laterally, and ventrally, on tail and posterior half of body. UF
573: total length 241, head 15.4 mm.; vague, light brownish, mot-
tled areas on body, dorsally and ventrally; outline of head broad-
ened just in advance of level of ear openings. Other characters of
these specimens do not differ importantly from those of the type.
Discussion.-The relationship of Amphiuma pholeter to A.
means could not be subspecific, for the two occurred together with-

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64 HERPETOLOGICA Vol. 20, No. 1

l ............................... ............... ....

Fig. 1.-A: Type of Amphiuma pholeter, dorsal view. B. Ventral view of

A. means (upper specimen) and type of A. pholeter; both individuals collected
and preserved together. Note small head, reduced limbs, and dark venter of
A. pholeter.

out intermediates in Levy County, Florida. The 37 individuals of

means, taken in the general areas where pholeter was found,
showed no approach toward the latter species. It also seems im-
probable that pholeter is but a variant of means, for the differences
between them are too numerous, too consistent, and too pronounced.
A. means occasionally exhibits a single toe on one limb, or rarely

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even on two limbs, as a result of regrowth after mutilation; but a

regenerated limb is usually recognizable as such. The mutilation is
generally confined to sizable adults, which twist off each others'
limbs (usually forelimbs) during courtship antics.
In limb size, digital count, and degree of countershading, there
is a phylogenetic trend from Amphiuma tridactylum through A.
means to A. pholeter.
The five specimens of Amphiuma pholeter represent an ex-
treme of amphiumid degeneracy. The reduced limbs, lower digital
count, reduced eye, shortened head, simplified head shape, muscu-
lar tail, and reduced countershading of A. pholeter all are charac-
ters that might be expected in a salamander more secretive and
fossorial than A. mneans. It is difficult to believe that all these
characters developed abruptly and simultaneously in the offspring
of ordinary meanis at four different localities. It seems more likely
that pholeter is a distinct species, perhaps confined to the extensive
muck beds of the Florida west coast.
At and near the Levy County localities for Amphiuma pholeter,
there are numerous small, muck-bottomed ponds and intermittent
streams, occupying pockets or channels in a limestone formation.
During the winter, and sometimes during the summer if rainfall is
unusually scant, these ponds and streams become dry basins, the
muck forming a crust over damp sand. The Jefferson County speci-
mens were taken in winter from beneath the surface in an area of
marshy, grassy soil, according to Dr. Riemer's field notes.
Probably Aniphitmna pholeter is dwarfed. Judged from the five
specimens known, the size ratio of A. pholeter to A. means is
roughly that of Siren i. intermedia to S. lacertina.
Zoogeography.-As little is known of Amphiumapholeter, con-
clusions regarding its distribution must be very tentative.
A wide continental shelf lies off the west coast of Florida, most
of it under no more than 40 fathoms of water. A limestone forma-
tion, with drowned stream valleys and sinkholes of subaerial origin,
occurs far out in the Gulf of NIexico (Price, 1954: 48-49, 54).
The drowned karst formation, which as yet has not been modified
by submarine forces, slopes gently upward, and above water it
supports the so-called Gulf Hammock which borders the Florida
west coast from southern Pasco County northward into Wakulla
County. During Pleistocene periods of lowered sea-level, there
must have been exposed an enormous area of flat coastal plain that
today lies beneath shallow waters of the Gulf. The accompanying
map (Fig. 2), taken from Cooke (1939: figs. 12, 15), indicates
the extent of the Florida peninsula in certain early and certain late
Pleistocene times. Surely the vast area, off what is now the Florida
west coast, must have had its Amphiuma. I suggest that A. pholeter

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66 HERPETOLOGICA Vol. 20, No. 1

-: . .,,~~~~~~~~~~~~~W

Fig. 2.-White: Present-day Florida. Stippled: Additional land exposed

during certain late Pleistocene times, Stippled plus black: Additional land ex-
posed during certain early Pleistocene times. Black circle: Levy County locali-
ties for Amphiuma pholeter, including type locality. Stippled circles: Addition-
al localities for A. pholeter.

was the species of that region, and that its range has been (indeed,
is still beiing)restrictedby a risingsea-level.
Etymology.-Pholeter- is a Greek word signifying "one who
hides in a den." An appropriateEnglish name would be "-Cone-toed
COOKE, C. WYTHE. 1939. Scenery of Florida interpreted by a geologist.
Fla. Dept. Conserv., Geol. Bull. No. 17:1-118.
MAERZ, A., AND M. REA PAUL. 1950. A Dictionary of Color. 2nd ed. New
York,McGraw-HillBook Co., Inc.: i-vii, 1-208.
PRICE, W. ARMSTRONG. 1954. Shorelines and coasts of the Gulf of Mexico.
Pp. 39-65 in Paul S. Galtsoff (coordinator), Gulf of Mexico: its origin,
waters, and marine life. U. S. Dept. Int., Fish and Wildlife Serv., Fishery
Bull. No. 89.
122 HomecrestRoad,New Port Richey, Florida

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