Overview

Comprehensive Description

Description

Plethodon neomexicanus are slim, elongated and short-legged salamanders. Females average 55.5 mm and males average 54.4 mm in length. They usually have 18-19 costal grooves and 19-20 trunk vertebrae (Williams 1973).

Adults are brown with fine brassy-colored stippling dorsally (Stebbins 2003). Ventrally, the pigment is reduced to the extent that they almost appear transparent (Williams 1973).

Young Plethodon neomexicanus have faint gray or brassy dorsal stripes. Molecular data indicate that these salamanders are mostly closely related to Plethodon larselli , the Larch Mountain salamanders (Stebbins 2003).

  • Stebbins, R. C. (1954). Amphibians and Reptiles of Western North America. McGraw-Hill, New York.
  • Willams, S. R. (1973). Comparative ecology and reproduction of the endemic New Mexico plethodontid salamanders, Plethodon neomexicanus and Aneides hardii, Ph.D. dissertation. University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, USA.
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Distribution

National Distribution

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

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Global Range: (250-1000 square km (about 100-400 square miles)) The range is restricted to the Jemez Mountains in Sandoval, Los Alamos, and Rio Arriba counties, New Mexico, at elevations of 7,185-11,256 feet (2,190-3,432 meters) (Degenhardt et al. 1996, Petranka 1998, Stebbins 2003, New Mexico Department of Game and Fish 2006).

Extent of occurrence is approximately 971 square kilometers (Painter 2005).

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Range Description

This species is restricted to the Jemez Mountains in Sandoval, Los Alamos, and Río Arriba Counties, New Mexico, USA, from 2,130-3,435m asl (Stebbins 1985b; Degenhardt, Painter and Price 1996; Petranka 1998). It exists as fragmented populations in six major zones of distribution within an area of approximately 650-780km² (New Mexico Department of Game and Fish 1994).
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Distribution and Habitat

This species occurs in the Jemez Mountains of Los Alamos and Sandoval counties, New Mexico (Williams 1973). It is found in moss-covered rockslides, epecially on north-facing slopes and under bark and beneath logs in and near mixed forest of fir, spruce, aspen, and maple. It spends most of the time underground except during the summer rains, between June and August (Stebbins 2003).

  • Stebbins, R. C. (1954). Amphibians and Reptiles of Western North America. McGraw-Hill, New York.
  • Willams, S. R. (1973). Comparative ecology and reproduction of the endemic New Mexico plethodontid salamanders, Plethodon neomexicanus and Aneides hardii, Ph.D. dissertation. University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, USA.
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Physical Description

Size

Length: 14 cm

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Type Information

Paratype for Plethodon neomexicanus
Catalog Number: USNM 129378
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Amphibians & Reptiles
Preparation: Ethanol
Year Collected: 1949
Locality: Los Alamos, 12 mi W and 4 mi S of, Sandoval, New Mexico, United States, North America
Elevation (m): 2667 to 2667
  • Paratype: Stebbins, R. C. & Riemer, W. J. 1950. Copeia. 1950 (2): 73.
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Ecology

Habitat

Arizona Mountains Forests Habitat

This taxon is found in the Arizona Mountain Forests, which extend from the Kaibab Plateau in northern Arizona to south of the Mogollon Plateau into portions of southwestern Mexico and eastern Arizona, USA. The species richness in this ecoregion is moderate, with vertebrate taxa numbering 375 species. The topography consists chiefly of steep foothills and mountains, but includes some deeply dissected high plateaus. Soil types have not been well defined; however, most soils are entisols, with alfisols and inceptisols in upland areas. Stony terrain and rock outcrops occupy large areas on the mountains and foothills.

The Transition Zone in this region (1980 to 2440 m in elevation) comprises a strong Mexican fasciation, including Chihuahua Pine (Pinus leiophylla) and Apache Pine (P. engelmannii) and unique varieties of Ponderosa Pine (P. ponderosa var. arizonica). Such forests are open and park-like and contain many bird species from Mexico seldom seen in the U.S.. The Canadian Zone (above 2000 m) includes mostly Rocky Mountain species of mixed-conifer communities such as Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), Engelmann Spruce (Picea engelmanni), Subalpine Fir (Abies lasiocarpa), and Corkbark Fir (A. lasiocarpa var. arizonica). Dwarf Juniper (Juniperus communis) is an understory shrubby closely associated with spruce/fir forests. Exposed sites include Chihuahua White Pine (Pinus strobiformis), while disturbed north-facing sites consists primarily of Lodgepole Pine (Pinus contorta) or Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloides).

There are a variety of mammalian species found in this ecoregion, including the endemic Arizona Gray Squirrel (Sciurus arizonensis), an herbivore who feeds on a wide spectrum of berries, bark and other vegetable material. Non-endemic mammals occurring in the ecoregion include: the Banner-tailed Kangaroo Rat (Dipodomys spectabilis NT); Desert Pocket Gopher (Geomys arenarius NT). In addition, there is great potential for restoring Mexican Wolf (Canis lupus) and Grizzly Bear (Ursus arctos horribilis) populations in the area because of its remoteness and juxtaposition to other ecoregions where these species were formerly prevalent.

There are few amphibians found in the Arizona mountain forests. Anuran species occurring here are: Red-spotted Toad (Anaxyrus punctatus); Southwestern Toad (Anaxyrus microscaphus); New Mexico Spadefoot Toad (Spea multiplicata); Woodhouse's Toad (Anaxyrus woodhousii); Northern Leopard Frog (Lithobates pipiens); Chiricahua Leopard Frog (Lithobates chiricahuensis VU); Madrean Treefrog (Hyla eximia), a montane anuran found at the northern limit of its range in this ecoregion; Boreal Chorus Frog (Anaxyrus woodhousii); Western Chorus Frog (Pseudacris triseriata); and Canyon Treefrog (Hyla arenicolor). The Jemez Mountains Salamander (Plethodon neomexicanus NT) is an ecoregion endemic, found only in the Jemez Mountains of Los Alamos and Sandoval counties, New Mexico. Another salamander occurring in the ecoregion is the Tiger Salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum).

A number of reptilian taxa occur in the Arizona mountains forests, including: Gila Monster (Heloderma suspectum NT), often associated with cacti or desert scrub type vegetation; Narrow-headed Garter Snake (Thamnophis rufipunctatus), a near-endemic found chiefly in the Mogollon Rim area; Sonoran Mud Turtle (Kinosternon sonoriense NT).

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Comments: This species occurs in mixed conifer habitat with abundant rotted logs and surface rocks; vegetation is dominated by Douglas-fir, blue spruce, Engelmann spruce, ponderosa pine, and white fir, with occasional aspen, Rocky Mountain maple, New Mexico locust, oceanspray, and various shrubby oaks (Williams 1973, Degenhardt et al. 1996, Stebbins 2003, New Mexico Department of Game and Fish 2006). Salamanders are most often encountered under and inside well-rotted Douglas-fir logs or under rocks (New Mexico Department of Game and Fish 2006). Terrestrial breeder.

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Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
It can be found in moss-covered talus and under bark and beneath logs and rocks in and near mixed forests of fir, spruce, and aspen (Stebbins 1985b). It occurs underground except during periods of warm seasonal rains. It is assumed to lay its eggs underground as no egg clutch has ever been found in the wild. Populations decline but persist after clear-cutting and slashing of forest, and it also persists after wildfires but most likely in reduced numbers.

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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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

Comments: Feeds on a variety of invertebrates including ants, beetle and moth larvae, spiders, and small snails.

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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: 6 - 20

Comments: This species is represented by several distinct occurrences (subpopulations). It exists as fragmented populations in "six major zones of distribution" (New Mexico Department of Game and Fish).

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Global Abundance

10,000 - 100,000 individuals

Comments: Total adult population size is unknown but presumably exceeds 10,000. This salamander is generally rare and localized but numerous in some restricted localities where essential microhabitat exists (Degenhardt et al. 1996).

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Life History and Behavior

Cyclicity

Comments: Remains below the surface throughout most of the year. May be active on the surface from June-August, during summer rains (Stebbins 1985). Forages at night.

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Reproduction

Lays a clutch of about 8 eggs between mid-August and spring. There is no aquatic larval stage. Females reach sexual maturity in three years and lay eggs every other year (Behler and King 1979).

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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N2 - Imperiled

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G2 - Imperiled

Reasons: Small distribution in one mountain range in New Mexico; may be declining in area of occupancy, number of subpopulations, and population size, but trends are difficult to determine; vulnerable to habitat loss/degradation from wildfires, logging, and road construction.

Intrinsic Vulnerability: Moderately vulnerable

Environmental Specificity: Narrow to moderate.

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IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
NT
Near Threatened

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2004

Assessor/s
Geoffrey Hammerson, Charles Painter

Reviewer/s
Global Amphibian Assessment Coordinating Team (Simon Stuart, Janice Chanson, Neil Cox and Bruce Young)

Contributor/s

Justification
Listed as Near Threatened because although the species is probably no longer in decline, its extent of occurrence is less than 5,000 km², thus making the species close to qualifying for Vulnerable.

History
  • 1996
    Endangered
  • 1994
    Vulnerable
    (Groombridge 1994)
  • 1990
    Vulnerable
    (IUCN 1990)
  • 1988
    Vulnerable
    (IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1988)
  • 1986
    Vulnerable
    (IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1986)
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Current Listing Status Summary

Status: Endangered
Date Listed: 10/10/2013
Lead Region:   Southwest Region (Region 2) 
Where Listed:


For most current information and documents related to the conservation status and management of Plethodon neomexicanus, see its USFWS Species Profile

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Global Short Term Trend: Relatively stable to decline of 30%

Comments: Likely relatively stable in stable in extent of occurrence; unknown trend in area of occupancy, population size, and number/condition of occurrences.

Global Long Term Trend: Relatively stable to decline of 50%

Comments: Likely relatively stable in extent of occurrence, possibly greater than 25% decline in population size, area of occupancy, and number/condition of occurrences (subpopulations). This secretive species is not easy to monitor; trends are difficult to determine.

The species probably was formerly more abundant in areas that have been subjected to heavy collecting and clearcut logging (Williams 1972).

This species was found at only 19 (38%) of 50 historically occupied sites surveyed during 2001-2003 (New Mexico Department of Game and Fish 2006). Based on numerous recent surveys, the species appears to be extirpated at the type locality where numerous early investigators found the species to be very abundant. Additionally, Cummer et al. (2003, 2004) reported the absence of P. neomexicanus at a site on the Valles Caldera National Preserve where the species was once abundant (Whitford and Ludwig 1976).

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Population

Population
It is rare to common in suitable habitat, which is fragmented due to subsurface geology.

Population Trend
Stable
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Threats

Degree of Threat: Medium

Comments: Due to the restricted range, this species is exceptionally vulnerable to habitat destruction (New Mexico Department of Fish and Game 1985, Degenhardt et al. 1996).

Current threats include the habitat degrading effects of wildfires, post-fire management (seeding, mulching), and road construction in known occupied habitat (New Mexico Hwy 126) (Ramotnik and Scott 1988, New Mexico Department of Game and Fish 2006). Threats posed by logging have been reduced in recent years as a result of reduction in timber harvest in the salamander's habitat (New Mexico Department of Game and Fish 2006). Disease (e.g., chytridiomycosis) does not currently appear to pose a major threat (Cummer 2006).

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Major Threats
The major threats to this species are intensive logging, slash removal, burning, road building, and establishment of tree plantations (Ramotnik and Scott 1988). The build-up of excessive fuel loads and resulting fires is also a threat. However, with recent conservation efforts, threats have been greatly reduced.
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Management

Biological Research Needs: An effective monitoring protocol is needed.

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Global Protection: Several (4-12) occurrences appropriately protected and managed

Comments: More than 90% of the populations of this species are believed to occur on lands administered by the Santa Fe National Forest; additional populations are known to occur on Santa Clara Pueblo, in Bandelier National Monument, and on private land.

Final approval of the Jemez Mountains Salamander Management Plan in 2000 represents a commitment by the Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish to manage this amphibian in a manner consistent with this agreement, and with each other's policies, in order to reduce threats and ensure that the species is conserved (New Mexico Department of Game and Fish 2000).

Needs: Implementation of the Jemez Mountains Salamander Management Plan will provide needed protection of habitat.

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Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
More than 90% of the populations of this species are believed to occur on lands administered by the Santa Fe National Forest; additional populations are known to occur on Santa Clara Pueblo, in Bandelier National Monument, and in the Valles Caldera National Preserve in Sandoval County (Cummer, Christman and Wright 2003), as well as on private land. Final approval of the Jemez Mountains Salamander Conservation Agreement in 2000 represents a commitment by the US Forest Service, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish to manage this amphibian in a manner consistent with this agreement, and with each other's policies, in order to reduce threats and ensure that the species is conserved (New Mexico Department of Game and Fish 2000). It is listed as 'threatened' by the State Game Commission of New Mexico, and is protected from harvest by the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service special order "Animal Possession Restrictions" No. 10–230, 22 November 1999.
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Risks

Stewardship Overview: The New Mexico Endemic Salamander Team completed the Jemez Mountains Salamander Management Plan, which was approved and signed by NMDGF, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and U.S. Forest Service (USFS) during January 2000. It is designed to provide guidance for management of the Jemez Mountains salamander on USFS lands.

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Wikipedia

Jemez Mountains salamander

The Jemez Mountains Salamander (Plethodon neomexicanus) is a species of salamander in the Plethodontidae family. It is endemic to New Mexico in the United States.

Its natural habitat is temperate forests. It is threatened by habitat loss. It is in rapid decline[1] and was placed on the IUCN Red List in 2013.[2]

Sources[edit]

References[edit]


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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Comments: Mahoney (2001) used mtDNA data to examine phylogenetic relationships of western and eastern Plethodon and Aneides. She found strong support for eastern Plethodon as a clade, but monophyly of Aneides was only weakly supported in some analyses, though "the monophyly of this clade is not in doubt." Analyses indicated that Plethodon stormi and P. elongatus are clearly sister taxa, and P. dunni and P. vehiculum also are well-supported sister taxa. Plethodon larselli and P. vandykei appear to be closely related, whereas P. neomexicanus did not group with any other lineage. All analyses yielded a paraphyletic Plethodon but constraint analyses did not allow rejection of a monophyletic Plethodon. Mahoney recommended continued recognition of Aneides as a valid genus and adoption of the metataxon designation for Plethodon*, indicating this status with an asterisk. (A metataxon is a group of lineages for which neither monophyly nor paraphyly can be demonstrated.)

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