Experts Find New Species of Salamander
PORTLAND, Ore. — A new species of salamander has been identified in the Siskiyou Mountains of southern Oregon and Northern California, demonstrating the biological richness of the region, researchers say.
The Scott Bar salamander, classified as Plethodon asupak, had been considered to be a member of the Siskiyou Mountains salamander species, or Plethodon stormi, until genetic analysis showed a distinct evolutionary line, said Joseph Vaile of the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center in Ashland.
"Everyone talks about how biologically rich the tropics are, but we are still discovering species right here in the Klamath-Siskiyou," Vaile said.
The word "asupak" is the Shasta Indian name for Scott Bar, an area near the confluence of the Scott and Klamath rivers.
Dave Clayton, a U.S. Forest Service biologist, led the study. The genetic analysis was done at Oregon State University.
The species dates from the Pleistocene era, a geologic period that stretches from 1.8 million years to 10,000 years ago. The newly identified species is believed to have survived the last ice age, Vaile said.
"It's pretty rare to find a new species of something that actually has four legs," Vaile said. "Usually, it's something like a new lichen, or maybe an insect. This is really an exciting discovery."
The Scott Bar salamander lives in the extreme northwestern corner of California on rocky slopes under mature and old-growth forest. The dense forest canopy helps retain moisture that is key for the survival of the salamander, which is highly sensitive to drying out.
The species has no lungs and instead breathes directly through its skin.
Environmental groups petitioned the Bush administration last year to protect the Siskiyou Mountains salamander and any related or distinct populations under the Endangered Species Act.
The research leading to the identification of the new species was funded by the Forest Service. The results will be published in the June edition of the quarterly journal Herpetologica.