Overview

Comprehensive Description

Description

Completely aquatic and gilled throughout life. The dwarf waterdog is the smallest member of the genus Necturus, which includes waterdogs and mudpuppies. All mudpuppies and waterdogs have bushy external gills, two gill slits, a laterally compressed tail, and four toes on front and hind feet. Adult dwarf waterdogs are 11.5-19 cm total length, and the tail is slightly less than 40% of total length. Sexually mature males can be distinguished by the swollen cloaca and pair of enlarged cloacal papillae that project posteriorly. Females have a proportionally longer tail than males. Coloration is generally a uniform slate gray to brown or dark olive above, normally without spots. Ventral color is dirty white and without spots, although a few may encroach at the edges of the venter. Dorsal spots are seen in some North Carolina populations. Spotted N. punctatus may be distinguished from the spotted N. lewisi by differences in size (N. lewisi is larger) and ventral coloration (N. punctatus has an unspotted venter, while N. lewisi is spotted). Also, spotted N. punctatus do not co-occur with N. lewisi. Hatchlings are uniformly brown dorsally, without stripes seen in other juvenile Necturus, like N. maculosus (Dundee 1998; Petranka 1998).

Necturus punctatus and N. lewisi may be sister species (Guttman et al. 1990).

  • Ashton, R. E., Jr., and Braswell, A. L. (1979). ''Nest and larvae of the Neuse River Waterdog, Necturus lewisi (Brimley) (Amphibia: Proteidae).'' Brimleyana, 1, 15-22.
  • Braswell, A. L., and Ashton, R. E., Jr. (1985). ''Distribution, ecology, and feeding habits of Necturus lewisi (Brimley).'' Brimleyana, 10, 13-35.
  • Dundee, H. A. (1998). ''Necturus punctatus (Gibbes). Dwarf Waterdog.'' Catalogue of American Amphibians and Reptiles. Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles, 663.1-663.5.
  • Guttman, S. I., Weigt, L. A., Moler, P. E., Ashton, R. E., Jr., Mansell, B. W. and Peavy, J. (1990). ''An electrophoretic analysis of Necturus form the southeastern United States.'' Journal of Herpetology, 24(2), 163-175.
  • Meffe, G. K., and Sheldon, A. L. (1987). ''Habitat use by dwarf waterdogs (Necturus punctatus) in South Carolina streams, with life history notes.'' Herpetologica, 43, 490-496.
  • Petranka, J. W. (1998). Salamanders of the United States and Canada. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington and London.
  • Shoop, C. R. (1965). "Aspects of reproduction in Louisiana Necturus populations." American Midland Naturalist, 74, 357-367.
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Distribution

Dwarf waterdogs (Necturus punctatus) are located in the Piedmont region of the Appalachian Highlands, and more commonly in the southern Atlantic Coastal Plain in the eastern United States. They are found in rivers and streams throughout eastern Georgia and reach as far north as Virginia. The westernmost boundary of their geographic range extends into the broad lowlands of the Triassic Basin in North Carolina. Dwarf waterdogs are present in the Chesapeake Bay region, but only in southeastern Virginia.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native )

  • Duellman, W., S. Sweet. 1999. Distribution patterns of amphibians in the Nearctic region of North America. Baltimore, Maryland: John Hopkins University Press.
  • Dunn, E. 1918. The Collection of Amphibia Caudata of the Museum of Comparative Zoology. Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard College, 62: 443-472.
  • Hardy Jr., J. 1972. Amphibians of the Chesapeake Bay Region. Chesapeake Science, 13: S123-S128.
  • Martof, B., W. Palmer, J. Bailey, J. Harrison III. 1980. Amphibians and Reptiles of the Carolinas and Virginia. Chapel Hill, North Carolina: The University of North Carolina Press.
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Range Description

This species can be found in the USA on the Coastal Plain from southeastern Virginia to at least central Georgia, and Fall Line and Piedmont from North Carolina to Georgia; populations westward to Mobile appear to be related to N. beyeri or possibly represent an undescribed species (see Dundee 1998).
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endemic to a single nation

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National Distribution

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

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Global Range: (20,000-200,000 square km (about 8000-80,000 square miles)) Range encompasses the Coastal Plain from southeastern Virginia to at least central Georgia, and the Fall Line and Piedmont from North Carolina to Georgia; populations westward to Mobile appear to be related to N. beyeri or possibly represent an undescribed species (see Dundee 1998).

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Distribution and Habitat

Distributed in the Coast Plain from southeastern Virginia to south central Georgia, and also enters the Fall Line and Piedmont from North Carolina to Georgia. Prefers small and medium-sized streams, swamps, and pools, with vegetation and leafbeds (Meffe and Sheldon 1987; Dundee 1998; Petranka 1998).

  • Ashton, R. E., Jr., and Braswell, A. L. (1979). ''Nest and larvae of the Neuse River Waterdog, Necturus lewisi (Brimley) (Amphibia: Proteidae).'' Brimleyana, 1, 15-22.
  • Braswell, A. L., and Ashton, R. E., Jr. (1985). ''Distribution, ecology, and feeding habits of Necturus lewisi (Brimley).'' Brimleyana, 10, 13-35.
  • Dundee, H. A. (1998). ''Necturus punctatus (Gibbes). Dwarf Waterdog.'' Catalogue of American Amphibians and Reptiles. Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles, 663.1-663.5.
  • Guttman, S. I., Weigt, L. A., Moler, P. E., Ashton, R. E., Jr., Mansell, B. W. and Peavy, J. (1990). ''An electrophoretic analysis of Necturus form the southeastern United States.'' Journal of Herpetology, 24(2), 163-175.
  • Meffe, G. K., and Sheldon, A. L. (1987). ''Habitat use by dwarf waterdogs (Necturus punctatus) in South Carolina streams, with life history notes.'' Herpetologica, 43, 490-496.
  • Petranka, J. W. (1998). Salamanders of the United States and Canada. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington and London.
  • Shoop, C. R. (1965). "Aspects of reproduction in Louisiana Necturus populations." American Midland Naturalist, 74, 357-367.
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Physical Description

Morphology

Dwarf waterdogs are the smallest of all water dog species. Adults range in head to tail length from 11.5 to 15.9 mm. For comparison, adult black warrior waterdogs typically range in size from 175 and 200 mm. Females generally have longer tails than males of the same body length, however, males and females of a given body length are typically the same mass. Dwarf waterdogs are slate-gray or brown with small, scattered pale spots. The dorsum tends to be dark, while the venter is often pale in color. In general, waterdogs have red external gills that protrude from both sides of the organism’s head.

Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; heterothermic ; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: female larger

  • Bart, H., M. Bailey, Jr., R. Ashton, P. Moler. 1997. Taxonomic and Nomenclatural Status of the Upper Black Warrior River Waterdog. Journal of Herpetology, 31 (2): 192-201. Accessed January 29, 2011 at http://www.jstor.org/stable/1565387.
  • Conant, R., J. Collins. 1998. Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians. New York, New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
  • Lannoo, M. 2005. Amphibian declines: the conservation status of United States species. Berkeley, California: University of California Press.
  • Meffe, G., A. Sheldon. 1987. Habitat Use by Dwarf Waterdogs (Necturus punctatus) in South Carolina Streams, with Life History Notes. Herpetologica, 43 (4): 490-496. Accessed January 28, 2011 at http://www.jstor.org/stable/3892150.
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Size

Length: 19 cm

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Type Information

Syntype for Necturus punctatus
Catalog Number: USNM 11813
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Amphibians & Reptiles
Preparation: Ethanol
Year Collected: 1850
Locality: Southern Santee River, County Undetermined, South Carolina, United States, North America
  • Syntype: Gibbes, L. R. 1850. Proceedings of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. 3rd Meeting: 159.
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Ecology

Habitat

Optimal habitat for dwarf waterdogs consists of silt-bottomed stream pools with leafy cover. They are also found in open sandy areas and prefer slow-moving water over areas with high flow rates.

Habitat Regions: freshwater

Terrestrial Biomes: mountains

Aquatic Biomes: rivers and streams

  • Jenson, J., C. Camp, W. Gibbons. 2008. Amphibians and Reptiles of Georgia. Athens, Georgia: The University of Georgia Press.
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Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
It is found in the bottoms of slow, sand- or mud-bottomed streams and connected ditches, cypress swamps; also stream-fed rice fields and mill ponds. It favours bottoms with leaf-litter and detritus. Juveniles burrow into bottom while adults congregate in leaf beds in winter. Eggs probably are attached to undersides of objects in water.

Systems
  • Terrestrial
  • Freshwater
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Comments: Bottoms of slow, sand- or mud-bottomed streams and connected ditches, cypress swamps; also stream-fed rice fields and mill ponds. Favors bottoms with leaf litter and detritus. Juveniles burrow into bottom. Adults congregate in leaf beds in winter. Eggs probably are attached to undersides of objects in water.

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Migration

Non-Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species do not make significant seasonal migrations. Juvenile dispersal is not considered a migration.

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.

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Trophic Strategy

Dwarf waterdogs are predatory and commonly consume gastropods, pelecypods, oligochaetes, arachnids, isopods, cladocerans, ostracods, copepods, amphipods, chilopods, and a variety of insects. In addition, adults often comsume annelids, crayfish , and even other salamanders, suggesting they may be cannibalistic. Young have been known to eat annelids, amphipod, millipedes, and insects and their larvae. Evidence suggests that males reduce, or even discontinue feeding activity during the breeding season, though larvae are thought to feed throughout the entire year.

Animal Foods: amphibians; fish; insects; terrestrial non-insect arthropods; terrestrial worms

Primary Diet: carnivore (Insectivore , Eats non-insect arthropods)

  • Braswell, A., R. Ashton Jr.. 1985. Distribution, ecology, and feeding habits of Necturus lewisi. Brimleyana, 10: 13-35.
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Comments: Diet in South Carolina included earthworms, chironomid larvae, crayfish, mayfly nymphs, and salamanders (Meffe and Sheldon 1987).

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Associations

Dwarf waterdogs prey upon the aquatic larvae of numerous arthropods, which may help control insect pests throughout its geographic range. Although parasites specific to this species are not known, the gills and skin of congenerics have proven to be prime habitat for a number of different endo and ectoparasites, such as trematodes. Proteochephalids inhabit the intestines of certain waterdog species.

  • Tobey, F. 1985. Virginia's Amphibians and Reptiles: A Distributional Survey. Purcellville, VA: Mr. Print.
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Although no evidence exists suggesting predators specific to this species, dwarf waterdogs likely fall prey to predaceous organisms inhabiting the same areas. Potential predators include aquatic insects and snakes, crayfish, and large salamanders. Although no evidence exists regarding anti-predatory behavior in dwarf waterdogs, they likely hide from potential threats in the soft substrate. Their coloration camouflages them from potential predators and likely helps reduce risk of predation.

Anti-predator Adaptations: cryptic

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Population Biology

Number of Occurrences

Note: For many non-migratory species, occurrences are roughly equivalent to populations.

Estimated Number of Occurrences: 81 - 300

Comments: This species is represented by many and/or large occurrences throughout most of the range. Dundee (1998) mapped well over 100 collection sites.

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Global Abundance

100,000 - 1,000,000 individuals

Comments: Total adult population size is unknown but presumably exceeds 10,000 and probably exceeds 100,000.

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

There is no information available concerning communication and perception in dwarf waterdogs.

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Life Cycle

Dwarf waterdogs do not undergo metamorphosis and larvae are considered adults once their reproductive system has fully matured. The larval stage lasts for a minimum of 2 years. The smallest reported larva was only 28 mm long. As larvae, their bodies are uniformly brown in color. Juveniles are often found in more shallow water than adults and commonly occur in bundles of leaves. Like larvae, juveniles are brown, but develop a bluish white color along the venter. Dwarf waterdogs become sexually mature by 5 years of age, and when fully mature, they range in length from 26 to 116 mm.

Development - Life Cycle: metamorphosis

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Life Expectancy

Only limited information on the lifespan of dwarf waterdogs exists. A single specimen captured in the wild and taken to the Cincinnati Zoo lived for 5 years and 8 months. Because they reach sexual maturity at 5 years of age, dwarf waterdogs likely live for more than 10 years. However, no information exists to confirm this.

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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Observations: One animal in captivity lived for 5.7 years (http://www.pondturtle.com/). Still, the longevity of these animals is likely underestimated and more data required.
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Reproduction

There is no information available regarding the mating system of dwarf waterdogs.

Little is know of the reproductive behavior of dwarf waterdogs, however, other waterdog species reproduce aquatically. The larger a dwarf waterdog, the greater the number of oocytes in the ovaries, which contain yolked and unyolked oocytes during mid-autumn. Most pregnant females carry 15 to 55 eggs. Average egg diameter has been reported as 4 and 4.2 mm and may depend on the number of eggs being carried. Prior to mating, which occurs during winter, male testes become large, firm, and yellow with dark pigmentation. Despite gender, individuals reach reproductive maturity by age 5 or when they become 65 to 70 mm in head-body length. Although no nests have been discovered, it is thought that dwarf waters attach their eggs to the underside of logs and other objects in the water.

Breeding season: Dwarf waterdogs breed during winter.

Range number of offspring: 15 to 55.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 5 years.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 5 years.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual

There is no information available regarding parental care in dwarf waterdogs.

  • Folkerts, G. 1971. Notes on South Carolina Salamanders. Journal of the Elisha Mitchell Scientific Society, 87: 206-208.
  • Lannoo, M. 2005. Amphibian declines: the conservation status of United States species. Berkeley, California: University of California Press.
  • Meffe, G., A. Sheldon. 1987. Habitat Use by Dwarf Waterdogs (Necturus punctatus) in South Carolina Streams, with Life History Notes. Herpetologica, 43 (4): 490-496. Accessed January 28, 2011 at http://www.jstor.org/stable/3892150.
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Paedomorphic. Oviposition probably occurs sometime from March-May in South Carolina (Meffe and Sheldon 1987). Hatchlings appear in fall. Sexually mature in about 5 years.

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Conservation

Conservation Status

Although dwarf waterdogs are classified as a species of least concern on the IUCN's Red List of Threatened Species, current population trends are unknown and thus, potential threats to their persistence are difficult to predict. Dwarf waterdogs occur in several protected areas throughout their geographic range.

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

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IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2014

Assessor/s
IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group

Reviewer/s
Luedtke, J.

Contributor/s
Hammerson, G.A. & Garcia Moreno, J.

Justification
Listed as Least Concern in view of its wide distribution and presumed large population.

History
  • 2004
    Least Concern
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National NatureServe Conservation Status

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

Intrinsic Vulnerability: Moderately vulnerable

Environmental Specificity: Narrow to moderate.

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Population

Population
Viable populations occur in most areas of the range (see Petranka 1998).

Population Trend
Unknown
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Global Short Term Trend: Relatively stable (=10% change)

Global Long Term Trend: Relatively stable (=10% change)

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Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors

Little is known about many life history features of dwarf waterdogs. Mating likely occurs in winter. Oviposition takes place in spring (Meffe and Sheldon 1987; Petranka 1998). Nests have not been described but are likely to be similar to other species of Necturus, where eggs are attached singly to the undersides of submerged cover objects (e.g. Shoop 1965; Ashton and Braswell 1979). Diet is similar to N. lewisi where these species co-occur (Braswell and Ashton 1985), and competition for food is possible. Diet items include oligochaetes, cladocerans, copepods, caddisflies, snails, clams, salamanders, and crayfish (Braswell and Ashton 1985; Meffe and Sheldon 1987; Petranka 1998). Natural predators have not been reported, but likely include fish (Petranka 1998).

  • Ashton, R. E., Jr., and Braswell, A. L. (1979). ''Nest and larvae of the Neuse River Waterdog, Necturus lewisi (Brimley) (Amphibia: Proteidae).'' Brimleyana, 1, 15-22.
  • Braswell, A. L., and Ashton, R. E., Jr. (1985). ''Distribution, ecology, and feeding habits of Necturus lewisi (Brimley).'' Brimleyana, 10, 13-35.
  • Dundee, H. A. (1998). ''Necturus punctatus (Gibbes). Dwarf Waterdog.'' Catalogue of American Amphibians and Reptiles. Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles, 663.1-663.5.
  • Guttman, S. I., Weigt, L. A., Moler, P. E., Ashton, R. E., Jr., Mansell, B. W. and Peavy, J. (1990). ''An electrophoretic analysis of Necturus form the southeastern United States.'' Journal of Herpetology, 24(2), 163-175.
  • Meffe, G. K., and Sheldon, A. L. (1987). ''Habitat use by dwarf waterdogs (Necturus punctatus) in South Carolina streams, with life history notes.'' Herpetologica, 43, 490-496.
  • Petranka, J. W. (1998). Salamanders of the United States and Canada. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington and London.
  • Shoop, C. R. (1965). "Aspects of reproduction in Louisiana Necturus populations." American Midland Naturalist, 74, 357-367.
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Threats

Major Threats
The major threats are unknown.
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Degree of Threat: Low

Comments: This species persists widely throughout its historical range, despite water pollution.

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Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors

Populations are apparently doing well, but pollution and siltation are harmful to these animals (Petranka 1998).

  • Ashton, R. E., Jr., and Braswell, A. L. (1979). ''Nest and larvae of the Neuse River Waterdog, Necturus lewisi (Brimley) (Amphibia: Proteidae).'' Brimleyana, 1, 15-22.
  • Braswell, A. L., and Ashton, R. E., Jr. (1985). ''Distribution, ecology, and feeding habits of Necturus lewisi (Brimley).'' Brimleyana, 10, 13-35.
  • Dundee, H. A. (1998). ''Necturus punctatus (Gibbes). Dwarf Waterdog.'' Catalogue of American Amphibians and Reptiles. Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles, 663.1-663.5.
  • Guttman, S. I., Weigt, L. A., Moler, P. E., Ashton, R. E., Jr., Mansell, B. W. and Peavy, J. (1990). ''An electrophoretic analysis of Necturus form the southeastern United States.'' Journal of Herpetology, 24(2), 163-175.
  • Meffe, G. K., and Sheldon, A. L. (1987). ''Habitat use by dwarf waterdogs (Necturus punctatus) in South Carolina streams, with life history notes.'' Herpetologica, 43, 490-496.
  • Petranka, J. W. (1998). Salamanders of the United States and Canada. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington and London.
  • Shoop, C. R. (1965). "Aspects of reproduction in Louisiana Necturus populations." American Midland Naturalist, 74, 357-367.
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
None needed. It occurs in several protected areas. Monitoring and research on population trends are lacking.
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

There are no known adverse effects of dwarf waterdogs on humans.

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Recreational fishermen commonly use waterdogs as bait for largemouth bass and catfish.

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Relation to Humans

Mudpuppies and waterdogs are sometimes seen in the pet trade.

  • Ashton, R. E., Jr., and Braswell, A. L. (1979). ''Nest and larvae of the Neuse River Waterdog, Necturus lewisi (Brimley) (Amphibia: Proteidae).'' Brimleyana, 1, 15-22.
  • Braswell, A. L., and Ashton, R. E., Jr. (1985). ''Distribution, ecology, and feeding habits of Necturus lewisi (Brimley).'' Brimleyana, 10, 13-35.
  • Dundee, H. A. (1998). ''Necturus punctatus (Gibbes). Dwarf Waterdog.'' Catalogue of American Amphibians and Reptiles. Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles, 663.1-663.5.
  • Guttman, S. I., Weigt, L. A., Moler, P. E., Ashton, R. E., Jr., Mansell, B. W. and Peavy, J. (1990). ''An electrophoretic analysis of Necturus form the southeastern United States.'' Journal of Herpetology, 24(2), 163-175.
  • Meffe, G. K., and Sheldon, A. L. (1987). ''Habitat use by dwarf waterdogs (Necturus punctatus) in South Carolina streams, with life history notes.'' Herpetologica, 43, 490-496.
  • Petranka, J. W. (1998). Salamanders of the United States and Canada. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington and London.
  • Shoop, C. R. (1965). "Aspects of reproduction in Louisiana Necturus populations." American Midland Naturalist, 74, 357-367.
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Wikipedia

Dwarf waterdog

The dwarf waterdog (Necturus punctatus) is the smallest member of the family Proteidae, and is endemic to the United States.

Description[edit]

This species is usually between 4.5 and 7.5 in (11.4–18.9 cm) long, and has bushy, narrow gills and a compressed tail. All feet have four toes. The salamander is dark brown or slate-grey to black above, and has a grey belly with a bluish-white band along the midline. Unlike other members of the Proteidae family, it is without any black spots.

Habitat[edit]

Dwarf waterdogs live in slow-moving, muddy or sandy-bottomed streams and associated deep irrigation ditches.

Geographic range[edit]

N. punctatus is found on the coastal plain from southeastern Virginia to southcentral Georgia,[1] and may extend westward along the Gulf Coastal plain.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Conant, Roger. 1975. A field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America, 2nd edition. Houghton Mifflin. Boston.
  • National Audubon Society Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians.
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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Comments: See Maxson et al. (1988) for information on NECTURUS phylogeny based on albumin analysis. Genetically most closely related to N. LEWISI (Guttman et al. 1990).

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