Overview

Comprehensive Description

Description

Description: Ambystoma bishopi is a moderately sized salamander species. The snout-vent length (SVL) of A. bishopi males ranges from 40.52-47.08 mm.Adult females have an SVL range of 41.09- 51.17 mm. 14 to 16 costal grooves are present. Tail width and height are sexually dimorphic characters, both of which are smaller in males (Pauly et al. 2007). The skin is smooth dorsally and ventrally, but is wrinkled on the flanks between the axilla and groin. The head is elongate. The snout is tapered. The nostrils are small and located towards the tip of the snout. Eyes are of medium size. A groove goes from the corner of the eye to behind the jaw base (Goin 1950).This species has vomerine teeth. However the arrangement and number are debated. Goin (1950) states the teeth are uniformly arranged into two rows while another study claims variable rows of teeth arrangement (Martof and Gerhardt 1965). The forelimbs are stout. The tail is flattened posteriorly and is shorter than the head and body lengths (Goin 1950).

Diagnosis: A. bishopi can be distinguished from A. cingulatum by its shorter limbs and smaller head (USFWS 2009). Generally, this species has fewer costal grooves than A. cingulatum and a shorter tail. The ventral pattern of A. bishopi consists of indistinct white spots on a dark background, creating a "salt and pepper" look, compared to A. cingulatum, which has distinct white spots on the ventral side (Goin 1950; USFWS 2009). The dorsal side pattern of A. bishopi is more net-like in appearance than the frosted patterning of A. cingulatum (USFWS 2009; Goin 1950).

Tadpole morphology: Larvae are less vividly marked and metamorphose earlier and at a smaller size than A. cingulatum (Goin 1950; Telford 1954). A. bishopi has several stripes either yellow brown or black along the body. Gills are bright red in life (Telford 1954).

A. bishopi and A. cingulatum larvae are difficult to distinguish (Martof and Gerhardt 1965). A. cingulatum larvae have broad, striped heads, with a black stripe extending from the nose to the gills and a second stripe along the upper jaw (Palis 1996). A light lateral stripe is retained in first year fully metamorphosed individuals, but is lost in older individuals (Palis 1997).

Coloration: The dorsal surface of A. bishopi is reticulated, with thin grey lines that form a net-like or banded pattern against a black to brown background (USFWS 2009). These lines surround areas of dark coloration (Martof and Gerhardt 1965). Small white flecks on a dark background cover the ventral surface, creating a "salt and pepper" pattern (Goin 1950). Preserved specimens of A. bishopi, can become dark, making their dorsal pattern unrecognizable (Martof and Gerhardt 1965).

Species Authority and Phylogenetic Relationships: A. bishopi was first described by Goin (1950) as Ambystoma cingulatum bishopi. Later this subspecies categorization was refuted by Martof and Gerhardt (1965) and was combined with A. c. cingulatum to form one species, A. cingulatumi. In 2007, A. bishopi was separated from A.cingulatum by Pauly et al. (2007) based on differences in mitochondrial DNA, morphology and allozymes. Because the two species were considered subspecies until 2007 and much of the life history information is assumed to be true for both species (USFWS 2009).

  • Anderson, J. D., and Williamson, G. K. (1976). ''Terrestrial mode of reproduction in Ambystoma cingulatum.'' Herpetologica, 32, 214-221.
  • Palis, J.G. (1996). ''Flatwoods Salamander (Ambystoma cingulatum Cope). Element stewardship abstract.'' Natural Areas Resource Journal, 16, 49-54.
  • Bishop, D.C, Haas, C.A. (2005). ''''Burning trends and potential negative effects of suppressing wetland fires on flatwoods salamanders.'' Natural Areas Journal , 25, 290-294.
  • Goin, C. J. (1950). ''A study of the salamander, Ambystoma cingulatum, with the description of a new subspecies.'' Annals of the Carnegie Museum, 31, 229-321.
  • Martof, B. S., and Gerhardt, H. C. (1965). ''Observations on the geographic variation in Ambystoma cingulatum.'' Copeia, 1965, 342-346.
  • Palis, J. G. (1997). ''Breeding migration of Ambystoma cingulatum in Florida.'' Journal of Herpetology, 31, 71-78.
  • Palis, J., Hammerson, G. 2008. Ambystoma cingulatum. In: IUCN 2011. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2011.2. www.iucnredlist.org. Downloaded on 15 March 2012.
  • Pauly, G.B., Piskurek, O., Shaffer, H.B. (2007). ''Phylogeographic concordance in the southeastern United States: the flatwoods salamander, Ambystoma cingulatum, as a test case.'' Molecular Ecology, 16, 415-429.
  • Telford, S. R. (1954). ''A description of the larvae of Ambystoma cingulatum bishopi Goin. including an extension of the range.'' Quarterly Journal of the Florida Academy of Sciences, 17, 233-236.
  • United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) (2009). ''Determination of endangered status for Reticulated Flatwoods Salamander.'' Federal Register, 74(26), 6700-6774.
  • Whiles, M. R., Jensen, J. B., and Palis, J. G. (2004). ''Diets of larval flatwoods salamanders, Ambystoma cingulatum, from Florida and South Carolina.'' Journal of Herpetology, 38, 208-214.
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Distribution

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: (5000-20,000 square km (about 2000-8000 square miles)) Range includes a small portion of the Coastal Plain of the southeastern United States from the Apalachicola and Flint rivers (western part of the Florida Panhandle and southwestern Georgia) westward (at least formerly) to extreme southwestern Alabama (Conant and Collins 1991, Pauly et al. 2007).

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Range Description

Range includes a small portion of the Coastal Plain of the southeastern United States from the Apalachicola and Flint rivers (western part of the Florida Panhandle and southwestern Georgia) westward (at least formerly) to extreme southwestern Alabama (Conant and Collins 1991, Pauly et al. 2007).

Based on 22 occurrences, and assuming 4 square kilometers per occurrence (actual value is unknown), area of occupancy would be 88 square kilometers; actual area of occupancy likely is larger than this.
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Distribution and Habitat

Historically, A. bishopi was distributed west of the Apalachicola-Flint River, in the lower Gulf coastal plains of southern Alabama, Georgia, and Northern Florida (Pauly et al. 2007; Whiles et al. 2004). Currently, their known distribution includes portions of the Florida panhandle and southern Georgia, west of the Apalachicola-Flint River (Pauly et al. 2007). No members of this species have been found in Alabama since 1981 (Godwin pers. comm).

Habitat for mature salamanders consists of upland areas with few tress, typically longleaf pines, and grasses. Soil is poorly drained sand, which leads to seasonal ponds and damp surroundings. This habitat will often have an open overstory of widely scattered longleaf pine, little to no midstory, and a diverse community of low growing shrubs which include highly diverse forb and grass communities (Palis 1996).

Larval A. bishopi occupy acidic (pH 3.4 - 5.6) ephemeral wetlands. These wetlands have varying amounts of vegetation, and lack dense midstory growth. Canopy is comprised of a typical Florida wetland assemblage (Palis 1996).

  • Anderson, J. D., and Williamson, G. K. (1976). ''Terrestrial mode of reproduction in Ambystoma cingulatum.'' Herpetologica, 32, 214-221.
  • Palis, J.G. (1996). ''Flatwoods Salamander (Ambystoma cingulatum Cope). Element stewardship abstract.'' Natural Areas Resource Journal, 16, 49-54.
  • Bishop, D.C, Haas, C.A. (2005). ''''Burning trends and potential negative effects of suppressing wetland fires on flatwoods salamanders.'' Natural Areas Journal , 25, 290-294.
  • Goin, C. J. (1950). ''A study of the salamander, Ambystoma cingulatum, with the description of a new subspecies.'' Annals of the Carnegie Museum, 31, 229-321.
  • Martof, B. S., and Gerhardt, H. C. (1965). ''Observations on the geographic variation in Ambystoma cingulatum.'' Copeia, 1965, 342-346.
  • Palis, J. G. (1997). ''Breeding migration of Ambystoma cingulatum in Florida.'' Journal of Herpetology, 31, 71-78.
  • Palis, J., Hammerson, G. 2008. Ambystoma cingulatum. In: IUCN 2011. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2011.2. www.iucnredlist.org. Downloaded on 15 March 2012.
  • Pauly, G.B., Piskurek, O., Shaffer, H.B. (2007). ''Phylogeographic concordance in the southeastern United States: the flatwoods salamander, Ambystoma cingulatum, as a test case.'' Molecular Ecology, 16, 415-429.
  • Telford, S. R. (1954). ''A description of the larvae of Ambystoma cingulatum bishopi Goin. including an extension of the range.'' Quarterly Journal of the Florida Academy of Sciences, 17, 233-236.
  • United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) (2009). ''Determination of endangered status for Reticulated Flatwoods Salamander.'' Federal Register, 74(26), 6700-6774.
  • Whiles, M. R., Jensen, J. B., and Palis, J. G. (2004). ''Diets of larval flatwoods salamanders, Ambystoma cingulatum, from Florida and South Carolina.'' Journal of Herpetology, 38, 208-214.
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Historic Range:


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Ecology

Habitat

Comments: The following information pertains to the Ambystoma cingulatum/bishopi complex as a whole.

Post-larval individuals inhabit mesic longleaf pine (Pinus palustris)-wiregrass (Aristida stricta) flatwoods and savannas. The terrestrial habitat is best described as a topographically flat or slightly rolling wiregrass-dominated grassland having little to no midstory and an open overstory of widely scattered longleaf pine. Low-growing shrubs, such as saw palmetto (Serenoa repens), gallberry (Ilex glabra) and blueberries (Vaccinium spp.), co-exist with grasses and forbs in the groundcover. Groundcover plant diversity is usually very high. The underlying soil is typically poorly drained sand that becomes seasonally inundated.

Slash pine flatwoods is often cited as the preferred terrestrial habitat of the flatwoods salamander (e.g., Conant and Collins 1991). This may be the result of an error made by Martof (1968) in which he referred to longleaf pine as slash pine (Pinus elliottii). In addition, slash pine now dominates or co-occurs with longleaf pine in many pine flatwoods communities as a result of fire suppression and preferential harvest of longleaf pine (Avers and Bracy 1975). Historically, however, fire-tolerant longleaf pine dominated the flatwoods, whereas slash pine was confined principally to wetlands (Harper 1914, Avers and Bracy 1975). Post-larval individuals are fossorial (live underground) and occupy burrows (Goin 1950, Neill 1951, Mount 1975, Ashton 1992). Presumably, they remain underground during the lightning-season (May through September). Adults are rarely encountered under cover objects at or near breeding sites (J. Palis, pers. obs.).

Breeding occurs in acidic (pH 3.6-5.6 (Palis, unpubl. data)), tannin-stained ephemeral wetlands (swamps or graminoid-dominated depressions) that range in size from 0.02 to 9.5 ha, and are usually not more than 0.5 m deep (Palis, unpubl. data). The overstory is typically dominated by pond cypress (Taxodium ascendens), blackgum (Nyssa sylvatica var. biflora) and slash pine, but can also include red maple (Acer rubrum), sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua), sweetbay (Magnolia virginiana), and loblolly bay (Gordonia lasianthus). Canopy coverage ranges from near zero to almost 100% (Palis, unpubl. data). The midstory, which is often very dense, is most often composed of young of the aforementioned species, myrtle-leaved holly (Ilex myrtifolia), Chapman's St. John's-wort (Hypericum chapmanii), sandweed (Hypericum fasciculatum), titi (Cyrilla racemiflora), storax (Styrax americana), popash (Fraxinus caroliniana), sweet pepperbush (Clethra alnifolia), fetterbush (Lyonia lucida), vine-wicky (Pieris phillyreifolia), and bamboo-vine (Smilax laurifolia). Depending on closure of the canopy and midstory, the herbaceous groundcover of breeding sites can range from about 5% to nearly 100% (Palis, unpubl. data). The groundcover is dominated by graminaceous species, including beakrushes (Rhynchospora spp.), sedges (Carex spp.), panic grasses (Panicum spp.), bluestems (Andropogon spp.), jointtails (Manisurus spp.), three-awned grass (Aristida affinis), plumegrass (Erianthus giganteus), nutrush (Sclera baldwinii) and yellow-eyed grasses (Xyris spp.). The floor of breeding sites is riddled with the burrows of crayfish (genus Procambarus). Breeding sites are typically encircled by a wiregrass-dominated graminaceous ecotone. Breeding sites can include roadside ditches (Anderson and Williamson 1976; Palis, pers. obs.) and borrow pits (D. Stevenson, pers. comm.). Breeding sites often harbor fishes, the most typical species include pygmy sunfishes (Elassoma spp.), mosquitofish (Gambusia holbrookii), and banded sunfish (Enneacanthus obesus) (Palis, unpubl. data). Favorable breeding habitat lacks large predatory fishes.

Before breeding sites fill with water, eggs are deposited singly or in small groups on the ground beneath leaf litter, under logs and Sphagnum mats, at the base of grasses, shrubs or trees, or at the entrance to crayfish burrows (Anderson and Williamson 1976). In wetlands that fill incrementally, eggs are deposited amid graminaceous vegetation at the edge (J. Palis, pers. obs.). Egg deposition in shallow water also has been reported (Ashton 1992). Larvae hide amid inundated graminaceous vegetation by day, but will enter the water column at night (J. Palis, pers. obs.).

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Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
The following information pertains to the Ambystoma cingulatum/bishopi complex as a whole.

Post-larval individuals inhabit mesic longleaf pine (Pinus palustris)-wiregrass (Aristida stricta) flatwoods and savannas. The terrestrial habitat is best described as a topographically flat or slightly rolling wiregrass-dominated grassland having little to no midstory and an open overstory of widely scattered longleaf pine. Low-growing shrubs, such as saw palmetto (Serenoa repens), gallberry (Ilex glabra) and blueberries (Vaccinium spp.), co-exist with grasses and forbs in the groundcover. Groundcover plant diversity is usually very high. The underlying soil is typically poorly drained sand that becomes seasonally inundated.

Slash pine flatwoods is often cited as the preferred terrestrial habitat of the flatwoods salamander (e.g., Conant and Collins 1991). This may be the result of an error made by Martof (1968) in which he referred to longleaf pine as slash pine (Pinus elliottii). In addition, slash pine now dominates or co-occurs with longleaf pine in many pine flatwoods communities as a result of fire suppression and preferential harvest of longleaf pine (Avers and Bracy 1975). Historically, however, fire-tolerant longleaf pine dominated the flatwoods, whereas slash pine was confined principally to wetlands (Harper 1914, Avers and Bracy 1975). Post-larval individuals are fossorial (live underground) and occupy burrows (Goin 1950, Neill 1951, Mount 1975, Ashton 1992). Presumably, they remain underground during the lightning-season (May through September). Adults are rarely encountered under cover objects at or near breeding sites (J. Palis, pers. obs.).

Breeding occurs in acidic (pH 3.6-5.6 (Palis, unpubl. data)), tannin-stained ephemeral wetlands (swamps or graminoid-dominated depressions) that range in size from 0.02 to 9.5 ha, and are usually not more than 0.5 m deep (Palis, unpubl. data). The overstory is typically dominated by pond cypress (Taxodium ascendens), blackgum (Nyssa sylvatica var. biflora) and slash pine, but can also include red maple (Acer rubrum), sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua), sweetbay (Magnolia virginiana), and loblolly bay (Gordonia lasianthus). Canopy coverage ranges from near zero to almost 100% (Palis, unpubl. data). The midstory, which is often very dense, is most often composed of young of the aforementioned species, myrtle-leaved holly (Ilex myrtifolia), Chapman's St. John's-wort (Hypericum chapmanii), sandweed (Hypericum fasciculatum), titi (Cyrilla racemiflora), storax (Styrax americana), popash (Fraxinus caroliniana), sweet pepperbush (Clethra alnifolia), fetterbush (Lyonia lucida), vine-wicky (Pieris phillyreifolia), and bamboo-vine (Smilax laurifolia). Depending on closure of the canopy and midstory, the herbaceous groundcover of breeding sites can range from about 5% to nearly 100% (Palis, unpubl. data). The groundcover is dominated by graminaceous species, including beakrushes (Rhynchospora spp.), sedges (Carex spp.), panic grasses (Panicum spp.), bluestems (Andropogon spp.), jointtails (Manisurus spp.), three-awned grass (Aristida affinis), plumegrass (Erianthus giganteus), nutrush (Sclera baldwinii) and yellow-eyed grasses (Xyris spp.). The floor of breeding sites is riddled with the burrows of crayfish (genus Procambarus). Breeding sites are typically encircled by a wiregrass-dominated graminaceous ecotone. Breeding sites can include roadside ditches (Anderson and Williamson 1976; Palis, pers. obs.) and borrow pits (D. Stevenson, pers. comm.). Breeding sites often harbor fishes, the most typical species include pygmy sunfishes (Elassoma spp.), mosquitofish (Gambusia holbrookii), and banded sunfish (Enneacanthus obesus) (Palis, unpubl. data). Favorable breeding habitat lacks large predatory fishes.

Before breeding sites fill with water, eggs are deposited singly or in small groups on the ground beneath leaf litter, under logs and Sphagnum mats, at the base of grasses, shrubs or trees, or at the entrance to crayfish burrows (Anderson and Williamson 1976). In wetlands that fill incrementally, eggs are deposited amid graminaceous vegetation at the edge (J. Palis, pers. obs.). Egg deposition in shallow water also has been reported (Ashton 1992). Larvae hide amid inundated graminaceous vegetation by day, but will enter the water column at night (J. Palis, pers. obs.).

Systems
  • Terrestrial
  • Freshwater
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Migration

Non-Migrant: No. All populations of this species make significant seasonal migrations.

Locally Migrant: Yes. At least some 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.

Salamanders of the Ambystoma cingulatum/bishopi complex migrate up to hundreds of meters between breeding and nonbreeding habitats; Ashton (1992) mentioned movements of over 1,700 meters. Migrations to breeding sites occur at night in conjunction with rains and passing cold fronts from mid-fall through early winter (Means 1972, Anderson and Williamson 1976; Palis, unpubl. data).

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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: 21 - 80

Comments: Surveys completed since 1990 indicate that 22 populations are known from across the historical range, with 2 in Georgia and the remainder in Florida (none known extant in Alabama) (USFWS 2005, Pauly et al. 2007).

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Global Abundance

1000 - 10,000 individuals

Comments: Secretive habits of adults make population estimates difficult. Total adult population size presumably is at least 1,000, but actual number is unknown.

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Life History and Behavior

Cyclicity

Comments: Seldom seen except during the breeding season. Small numbers of post-larval salamanders continue to be active on the surface during the winter months (Palis, unpubl. data).

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Reproduction

The following information pertains to the Ambystoma cingulatum/bishopi complex as a whole.

Movements to breeding ponds occur usually between early October and January during rainy evenings when the barometric pressure is falling (Ashton 1992). In Florida, salamanders that entered and exited the breeding site only once remained in the basin an average of 38 days (range 3-117 days) (Palis 1997). Individual females lay up to 225 eggs (Ashton 1992) singly or in small clusters, with larger individuals producing more eggs than smaller ones (Anderson and Williamson 1976). Eggs are laid terrestrially before depressions fill with water; The eggs develop to hatching size within three weeks, but do not hatch until inundated (Anderson and Williamson 1976). The larval period lasts three to four months (11-18 weeks) (Means 1986, Palis and Jensen 1995). Metamorphs emigrate from their natal ponds during the months of March and April (J. Palis, pers. obs.). In captivity, adult size can be reached within one year (Means 1972). Preliminary field data, however, suggest that full size is not attained until the third or fourth year in the wild (Palis, unpubl. data). Although not much bigger than metamorphs, males attain sexual maturity in their first year (Palis 1997). Females, however, do not sexually mature until at least two years old (Palis and Jensen 1995, Palis 1997). Generation length is presumed to be about 8 years.

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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: Endemic to a small portion of the Coastal Plain of the southeastern United States; typically collected in low numbers; few recent collections; trend data indicate a loss of a large majority of historical local breeding populations; adult and larval habitats continue to be threatened by conversion to other uses.

Intrinsic Vulnerability: Moderately vulnerable

Environmental Specificity: Narrow. Specialist or community with key requirements common.

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IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
VU
Vulnerable

Red List Criteria
A2c

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2008

Assessor/s
John Palis, Geoffrey Hammerson

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

Contributor/s

Justification
Listed as Vulnerable because of a population decline, estimated to be more than 30% over the last three generations, inferred from habitat destruction and degradation. Additionally, population size may be less than 10,000 mature individuals, a continuing decline of at least 10% may occur within three generations, and no subpopulation may include as many as 1,000 mature individuals. However, adequate population information is lacking, so application of these criteria must await further data. Declines may be continuing, area of occupancy is small (perhaps less than 500 sq km), and the distribution may qualify as severely fragmented; under these criteria the species would qualify as Endangered.
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Current Listing Status Summary

Status: Endangered
Date Listed: 02/10/2009
Lead Region:   Southeast Region (Region 4) 
Where Listed: Entire


Population detail:

Population location: Entire
Listing status: E

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

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

Comments: Currently, the species presumably is declining in concert with continued loss of remaining intact pine flatwoods community (particularly degradation of groundcover). The rate of decline is unknown.

Global Long Term Trend: Decline of 70-90%

Comments: During extensive surveys of historical (pre-1990) breeding ponds, researchers recorded the species at only a small minority of formerly inhabited sites.

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Population

Population
Surveys completed since 1990 indicate that 22 populations are known from across the historical range, with 2 in Georgia and the remainder in Florida (none known extant in Alabama) (USFWS 2005, Pauly et al. 2007).

Secretive habits of adults make population estimates difficult. Total adult population size presumably is at least 1,000, but actual number is unknown.

During extensive surveys of historical (pre-1990) breeding ponds, researchers recorded the species at only a small minority of formerly inhabited sites. Currently, the species presumably is declining in concert with continued loss of remaining intact pine flatwoods community (particularly degradation of groundcover). The rate of decline is unknown.

Population Trend
Decreasing
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Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors

A. bishopi is a terrestrial, burrow-dwelling salamander that spends the majority of its life among the leaf litter. It emerges from the ground at night during periods of rain to breed (Palis 1996). These migrations have been linked to the presence of cold fronts. The breeding migration begins in October as heavy rains draw adults out (Palis 1997).

Females lay a number of eggs proportional to their size but may produce up to 225 eggs. Eggs are deposited either individually or in small groups beneath leaf litter, logs, shrubs, trees or at the entrance to crayfish burrows before breeding sites begin to fill up (Anderson and WIlliamson 1976; Palis 1996). Eggs may develop to hatching size within three weeks but will not actually hatch until flooded with water. Larvae are nocturnal, hiding most of the day, and feeding in a water column at night. Metamorphosis usually takes place beginning in March and ends in April (Palis 1996). Mature salamanders move to upland areas where they live until returning to ponds to breed (USFWS 2009).

Adults of A. bishopi have been known to consume earthworms while larvae feed on invertebrates, such as crustaceans, isopods (Caecidotea) and amphipods (Crangonyx) (Goin 1950; Whiles et al. 2004).

  • Anderson, J. D., and Williamson, G. K. (1976). ''Terrestrial mode of reproduction in Ambystoma cingulatum.'' Herpetologica, 32, 214-221.
  • Palis, J.G. (1996). ''Flatwoods Salamander (Ambystoma cingulatum Cope). Element stewardship abstract.'' Natural Areas Resource Journal, 16, 49-54.
  • Bishop, D.C, Haas, C.A. (2005). ''''Burning trends and potential negative effects of suppressing wetland fires on flatwoods salamanders.'' Natural Areas Journal , 25, 290-294.
  • Goin, C. J. (1950). ''A study of the salamander, Ambystoma cingulatum, with the description of a new subspecies.'' Annals of the Carnegie Museum, 31, 229-321.
  • Martof, B. S., and Gerhardt, H. C. (1965). ''Observations on the geographic variation in Ambystoma cingulatum.'' Copeia, 1965, 342-346.
  • Palis, J. G. (1997). ''Breeding migration of Ambystoma cingulatum in Florida.'' Journal of Herpetology, 31, 71-78.
  • Palis, J., Hammerson, G. 2008. Ambystoma cingulatum. In: IUCN 2011. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2011.2. www.iucnredlist.org. Downloaded on 15 March 2012.
  • Pauly, G.B., Piskurek, O., Shaffer, H.B. (2007). ''Phylogeographic concordance in the southeastern United States: the flatwoods salamander, Ambystoma cingulatum, as a test case.'' Molecular Ecology, 16, 415-429.
  • Telford, S. R. (1954). ''A description of the larvae of Ambystoma cingulatum bishopi Goin. including an extension of the range.'' Quarterly Journal of the Florida Academy of Sciences, 17, 233-236.
  • United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) (2009). ''Determination of endangered status for Reticulated Flatwoods Salamander.'' Federal Register, 74(26), 6700-6774.
  • Whiles, M. R., Jensen, J. B., and Palis, J. G. (2004). ''Diets of larval flatwoods salamanders, Ambystoma cingulatum, from Florida and South Carolina.'' Journal of Herpetology, 38, 208-214.
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Threats

Degree of Threat: Medium

Comments: Potential threats include conversion of pine flatwoods habitat for agriculture, silviculture, or commercial/residential development; drainage or enlargement (with subsequent introduction of predatory fishes) of breeding ponds; habitat alteration resulting from suppression of fire; mortality and collecting losses associated with crayfish harvest; and highway mortality during migration.

The principal threat is habitat destruction as a result of agriculture, silviculture, and residential and commercial development. Modern silvicultural methods rely on altering soil hydrology, suppressing fire, shortening timber rotations, and replacing widely-spaced longleaf pine with dense plantations of slash pine. Loss of groundcover vegetation due to mechanical soil preparation, fire suppression, and shading by overstories of slash pine have been implicated in the decline in north Florida (Means et al. 1994, 1996).

Larvae are threatened in some wetlands by the harvest of crayfish as bait. Bait harvesters drag large hardware cloth buckets through inundated vegetation, dump the contents of the bucket on the ground, and then sort out the crayfish. Flatwoods salamander larvae taken in this manner are left to die or are collected as bait (J. Palis, pers. obs.).

The effect of herbicide or fertilization application on flatwoods salamanders is unknown. However, fertilization of plantations often results in eutrophication of wetlands, promoting algal blooms. Larval flatwoods salamanders have not been observed in algal-choked wetlands (J. Palis, pers. obs.).

Ditching or berming of small, isolated pond-cypress wetlands, a common practice when establishing slash pine plantations on mesic sites, results in lowered water levels and shortened hydroperiods (Marois and Ewel 1983). These hydrologic perturbations could prevent successful flatwoods salamander reproduction by preventing egg inundation or stranding larvae before they are capable of metamorphosis. Altered hydrology, in association with fire exclusion, results in a shift in dominance from pond-cypress to broad-leaved hardwoods that reduce herbaceous groundcover vegetation through shading (Marois and Ewel 1983). This may be detrimental since A. cingulatum larvae take shelter in herbaceous vegetation during the day.

Ephemeral pond-cypress depressions are sometimes converted into permanent water bodies, rendering them unsuitable for flatwoods salamander reproduction (J. Palis, pers. obs.).

A constant winter-burn fire plan could be detrimental (Ashton 1992).

See USFWS (1999) for additional information.

2011: A proposed road threatens to cut through the best remaining occurrence (Eglin Air Force Base, East Bay Flatwoods).

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Major Threats
Potential threats include conversion of pine flatwoods habitat for agriculture, silviculture, or commercial/residential development; drainage or enlargement (with subsequent introduction of predatory fishes) of breeding ponds; habitat alteration resulting from suppression of fire; mortality and collecting losses associated with crayfish harvest; and highway mortality during migration.

The principal threat is habitat destruction as a result of agriculture, silviculture, and residential and commercial development. Modern silvicultural methods rely on altering soil hydrology, suppressing fire, shortening timber rotations, and replacing widely-spaced longleaf pine with dense plantations of slash pine. Loss of groundcover vegetation due to mechanical soil preparation, fire suppression, and shading by overstories of slash pine have been implicated in the decline in north Florida (Means et al. 1994, 1996).

Larvae are threatened in some wetlands by the harvest of crayfish as bait. Bait harvesters drag large hardware cloth buckets through inundated vegetation, dump the contents of the bucket on the ground, and then sort out the crayfish. Flatwoods salamander larvae taken in this manner are left to die or are collected as bait (J. Palis, pers. obs.).

The effect of herbicide or fertilization application on flatwoods salamanders is unknown. However, fertilization of plantations often results in eutrophication of wetlands, promoting algal blooms. Larval flatwoods salamanders have not been observed in algal-choked wetlands (J. Palis, pers. obs.).

Ditching or berming of small, isolated pond-cypress wetlands, a common practice when establishing slash pine plantations on mesic sites, results in lowered water levels and shortened hydroperiods (Marois and Ewel 1983). These hydrologic perturbations could prevent successful flatwoods salamander reproduction by preventing egg inundation or stranding larvae before they are capable of metamorphosis. Altered hydrology, in association with fire exclusion, results in a shift in dominance from pond-cypress to broad-leaved hardwoods that reduce herbaceous groundcover vegetation through shading (Marois and Ewel 1983). This may be detrimental since A. cingulatum larvae take shelter in herbaceous vegetation during the day.

Ephemeral pond-cypress depressions are sometimes converted into permanent water bodies, rendering them unsuitable for flatwoods salamander reproduction (J. Palis, pers. obs.).

A constant winter-burn fire plan could be detrimental (Ashton 1992).

See USFWS (1999) for additional information.
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Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors

Habitat loss from agricultural conversion or commercial development, pond alteration and additional introduction of predatory fish, fire suppression leading to altered forest habitat and crayfish harvesting comprise the most serious threats to A. bishopi populations (Palis and Hammerson 2008). One threat comes from the introduction of predators or disease to their small breeding pools from larger, permanent water sources via roadside ditches, tire ruts or other such manmade disturbances. "Red-leg" disease (Aeromonas hydrophila) is known to have affected A. talpoideum populations in breeding pools A. bishopi also historically occupied. Chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis) and a parasitic nematode (Hedruris siredonis) have also been associated with decreased larval fitness and mass die-offs in other Ambystomatid species, suggesting that they could also pose a threat to A. bishopi. An estimated 36 percent of all known populations have only one breeding pond that they use annually and any disruption could lead to a severe decline (USFWS 2009).

A. bishopi selectively breeds in open canopy, longleaf pines which are particularly fire-adapted. However, fire suppression may lead to changes in the coverage and wetland composition that this species selects for. Further growth could crowd the ecosystem and destroy historical breeding ponds (Bishop and Haas 2005). Though this has not been proven, the potential exists if no consideration is given.

Due to the burrowing nature of the species, adult population numbers are difficult to enumerate. However, no more than 10,000 adults in twenty populations are estimated within the entire range. The population is assumed to be declining rapidly given deforestation, silviculture, and general habitat degradation and fragmenting (Palis and Hammerson 2008).

  • Anderson, J. D., and Williamson, G. K. (1976). ''Terrestrial mode of reproduction in Ambystoma cingulatum.'' Herpetologica, 32, 214-221.
  • Palis, J.G. (1996). ''Flatwoods Salamander (Ambystoma cingulatum Cope). Element stewardship abstract.'' Natural Areas Resource Journal, 16, 49-54.
  • Bishop, D.C, Haas, C.A. (2005). ''''Burning trends and potential negative effects of suppressing wetland fires on flatwoods salamanders.'' Natural Areas Journal , 25, 290-294.
  • Goin, C. J. (1950). ''A study of the salamander, Ambystoma cingulatum, with the description of a new subspecies.'' Annals of the Carnegie Museum, 31, 229-321.
  • Martof, B. S., and Gerhardt, H. C. (1965). ''Observations on the geographic variation in Ambystoma cingulatum.'' Copeia, 1965, 342-346.
  • Palis, J. G. (1997). ''Breeding migration of Ambystoma cingulatum in Florida.'' Journal of Herpetology, 31, 71-78.
  • Palis, J., Hammerson, G. 2008. Ambystoma cingulatum. In: IUCN 2011. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2011.2. www.iucnredlist.org. Downloaded on 15 March 2012.
  • Pauly, G.B., Piskurek, O., Shaffer, H.B. (2007). ''Phylogeographic concordance in the southeastern United States: the flatwoods salamander, Ambystoma cingulatum, as a test case.'' Molecular Ecology, 16, 415-429.
  • Telford, S. R. (1954). ''A description of the larvae of Ambystoma cingulatum bishopi Goin. including an extension of the range.'' Quarterly Journal of the Florida Academy of Sciences, 17, 233-236.
  • United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) (2009). ''Determination of endangered status for Reticulated Flatwoods Salamander.'' Federal Register, 74(26), 6700-6774.
  • Whiles, M. R., Jensen, J. B., and Palis, J. G. (2004). ''Diets of larval flatwoods salamanders, Ambystoma cingulatum, from Florida and South Carolina.'' Journal of Herpetology, 38, 208-214.
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Management

Restoration Potential: Recovery is directly linked with the ability to preserve existing habitat and restore degraded habitat. Given the drastic decline in the extent of longleaf pine-dominated communities (Ware et al. 1993), elevation of flatwoods salamander populations above present levels is unlikely. Restoration of degraded mesic, seasonally inundated longleaf pine flatwoods and savannas has not been attempted, and may only be feasible in cases where soil disturbance is minimal. The effectiveness of reintroduction into areas where extirpated is unknown.

Preserve Selection and Design Considerations: High quality occurrences include several wetlands within a matrix of pine flatwoods and savanna. Based on the maximum distance adults are known to travel between reproductive and nonreproductive habitat (1.7 km), each breeding site should be surrounded by at least 10 sq km of terrestrial habitat. Longterm perpetuation of a viable population of flatwoods salamanders will presumably require protection of a larger area of terrestrial habitat encompassing a suite of alternative breeding sites (Travis 1994). A suite of wetlands guards against extirpation at any one breeding site, since animals can immigrate from nearby wetlands. The minimum viable population size needed to sustain a population longterm is not known. Preliminary drift fence data at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, suggests that breeding population sizes are low relative to other Ambystoma (Palis, unpubl. data). However, this may be a site specific observation as larger breeding migrations have been observed elsewhere in the range (R. Moulis, pers. comm.). Presently, there is no method of assessing an occurrence based on the number of animals captured at a drift fence or the number of larvae inhabiting a breeding site.

Management Requirements: Maintenance of intact mesic longleaf pine-wiregrass flatwoods and ephemeral wetlands by mimicking natural forces, such as lightning-season fire, is the most appropriate form of management. On sites where timber extraction is practiced, several precautions should be taken to limit the impact to flatwoods salamanders. Tree harvest should be restricted to dry periods to prevent soil compaction and rutting. Clearcutting should be replaced with selective timber harvest and natural regeneration enhanced by fire, particularly lightning-season fire. If off-site species such as slash pine have been planted, they should be removed and replaced with longleaf pine at densities found in nature. Mechanical preparation of the soil should be avoided. If a site supports mature, closed-canopy pine plantations, they should be thinned with as little disturbance to the soil and remaining groundcover as possible. The natural hydrology and fire regime of terrestrial and aquatic habitats should be restored on sites where altered.

The wetland/upland ecotone appears to be critical to successful flatwoods salamander reproduction. Some areas are in need of periodic burning to clear encroaching shrubby vegetation that shades out herbaceous ground cover (Palis and Jensen 1995). Maintenance of a graminaceous ecotone and breeding site will require burning in the lightning-season when wetlands are dry or nearly dry (Huffman and Blanchard 1990) . Bury et al. (1980) recommended that wiregrass not be burned in winter (destructive to wiregrass [used for egg attachment] and possibly to salamanders directly). Palis and Jensen (1995) stated that winter burns may be needed to avoid catastrophic fires when warm-season burning is initiated.

Mechanical disturbance of the wetland-upland ecotone should be avoided. The practice of "protecting" wetlands by encircling them with plow line should be abandoned. Where present, berms should be removed and drainage ditches filled.

Breeding ponds should not be dredged or stocked with fishes.

Management Research Needs: Development of a quantitative means of using surveys of larvae to indicate the size of the adult breeding population is needed.

Demographic data are needed to better understand the natural history and, in particular, factors that limit population size (e.g., egg, larval, and metamorph survivorship; competition with other species).

Longterm drift-fence studies are needed at several nearby sites to examine inter-pond salamander movement and to delineate the range of natural population fluctuations.

More information is needed on the extent of upland habitat required to support a population breeding in a particular pond. Radiotelemetry or radioactive tagging of adults could be used to address this need.

Effects on salamander populations of different forms of resource management and of anthropogenic habitat disturbance need to be examined (Palis and Jensen 1995).

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Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
This species occurs on Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.

Activities aimed at restoring/maintaining the ecological integrity of mesic longleaf pine-wiregrass flatwoods and associated ephemeral wetlands are needed to preserve extant populations of flatwoods salamanders.

Recovery is directly linked with the ability to preserve existing habitat and restore degraded habitat. Given the drastic decline in the extent of longleaf pine-dominated communities (Ware et al. 1993), elevation of flatwoods salamander populations above present levels is unlikely. Restoration of degraded mesic, seasonally inundated longleaf pine flatwoods and savannas has not been attempted, and may only be feasible in cases where soil disturbance is minimal. The effectiveness of reintroduction into areas where extirpated is unknown.

High quality occurrences include several wetlands within a matrix of pine flatwoods and savanna. Based on the maximum distance adults are known to travel between reproductive and nonreproductive habitat (1.7 km), each breeding site should be surrounded by at least 10 sq km of terrestrial habitat. Long term perpetuation of a viable population of flatwoods salamanders will presumably require protection of a larger area of terrestrial habitat encompassing a suite of alternative breeding sites (Travis 1994). A suite of wetlands guards against extirpation at any one breeding site, since animals can immigrate from nearby wetlands. The minimum viable population size needed to sustain a population longterm is not known. Preliminary drift fence data at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, suggests that breeding population sizes are low relative to other Ambystoma (Palis, unpubl. data). However, this may be a site specific observation as larger breeding migrations have been observed elsewhere in the range (R. Moulis, pers. comm.). Presently, there is no method of assessing an occurrence based on the number of animals captured at a drift fence or the number of larvae inhabiting a breeding site.

Maintenance of intact mesic longleaf pine-wiregrass flatwoods and ephemeral wetlands by mimicking natural forces, such as lightning-season fire, is the most appropriate form of management. On sites where timber extraction is practiced, several precautions should be taken to limit the impact to flatwoods salamanders. Tree harvest should be restricted to dry periods to prevent soil compaction and rutting. Clearcutting should be replaced with selective timber harvest and natural regeneration enhanced by fire, particularly lightning-season fire. If off-site species such as slash pine have been planted, they should be removed and replaced with longleaf pine at densities found in nature. Mechanical preparation of the soil should be avoided. If a site supports mature, closed-canopy pine plantations, they should be thinned with as little disturbance to the soil and remaining groundcover as possible. The natural hydrology and fire regime of terrestrial and aquatic habitats should be restored on sites where altered.

The wetland/upland ecotone appears to be critical to successful flatwoods salamander reproduction. Some areas are in need of periodic burning to clear encroaching shrubby vegetation that shades out herbaceous ground cover (Palis and Jensen 1995). Maintenance of a graminaceous ecotone and breeding site will require burning in the lightning-season when wetlands are dry or nearly dry (Huffman and Blanchard 1990) . Bury et al. (1980) recommended that wiregrass not be burned in winter (destructive to wiregrass [used for egg attachment] and possibly to salamanders directly). Palis and Jensen (1995) stated that winter burns may be needed to avoid catastrophic fires when warm-season burning is initiated.

Mechanical disturbance of the wetland-upland ecotone should be avoided. The practice of "protecting" wetlands by encircling them with plow line should be abandoned. Where present, berms should be removed and drainage ditches filled.

Breeding ponds should not be dredged or stocked with fishes.

Demographic data are needed to better understand the natural history and, in particular, factors that limit population size (e.g., egg, larval, and metamorph survivorship; competition with other species).

Longterm drift-fence studies are needed at several nearby sites to examine inter-pond salamander movement and to delineate the range of natural population fluctuations.

More information is needed on the extent of upland habitat required to support a population breeding in a particular pond. Radiotelemetry or radioactive tagging of adults could be used to address this need.

Effects on salamander populations of different forms of resource management and of anthropogenic habitat disturbance need to be examined (Palis and Jensen 1995).
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Risks

Stewardship Overview: Stewardship activities aimed at restoring/maintaining the ecological integrity of mesic longleaf pine-wiregrass flatwoods and associated ephemeral wetlands will preserve extant populations of flatwoods salamanders.

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Wikipedia

Reticulated flatwoods salamander

The reticulated flatwoods salamander (Ambystoma bishopi) is a species of mole salamander that is native to a small portion of the southeastern coastal plain in the western panhandle of Florida and extreme southwestern Georgia. The species once occurred in portions of southern Alabama but is now considered extirpated there. Its ecology and life history are nearly identical to its sister species, the frosted flatwoods salamander (A. cingulatum). It inhabits seasonally wet pine flatwoods and pine savannas west of the Apalachicola River-Flint River system.[2] The fire ecology of longleaf pine savannas is well-known, but there is less information on natural fire frequencies of wetland habitats in this region.[3] Like the Frosted Flatwoods Salamander, this salamander breeds in ephemeral wetlands with extensive emergent vegetation, probably maintained by summer fires.[4] Wetlands overgrown with woody shrubs are less likely to support breeding populations.[5]

Description[edit]

Ambystoma bishopi is a medium-sized species with a snout to vent length of 40 to 50 millimetres (1.6 to 2.0 in) and 14 to 16 costal grooves. The head is long with a tapered snout and there are vomerine teeth in the roof of the mouth. The forelimbs are stout and the tail is flattened towards the tip, being shorter than the head and body length combined. The skin is smooth and the dorsal surface is reticulated, with thin grey lines forming a net-like pattern on a brownish-black background. The ventral surface is dark with sparse white speckles. This salamander is similar in appearance to Ambystoma cingulatum but the latter has a more frosted dorsal pattern and larger white spots on the ventral surface.[6]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

Ambystoma bishopi is a burrowing species of salamander and lives among the leaf litter beneath longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) and wiregrass (Aristida stricta) in the flatwoods coastal plain ecosystems of the Southeastern United States.[1]

Biology[edit]

Ambystoma bishopi is a terrestrial species. Breeding starts with the arrival of the rains in October. Eggs are laid under the leaf litter or beneath logs, in the entrances of crayfish holes or in other hidden places near ponds. After about three weeks they are ready to hatch but do not do so until they are flooded with water. The larvae are nocturnal, hiding during the day in the leaf litter and emerging to feed in the water at night. Metamorphosis usually takes place in the spring and mature individuals move to higher areas away from water where they live until the fall, when they return to flooded areas to breed.[6]

Status[edit]

The species was described in 2007 and received endangered status by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service in 2008.[7] In its Red List of Threatened Species, the IUCN lists Ambystoma bishopi as being "vulnerable". This is because the population trend is downward, as a result of habitat destruction and an increase in undergrowth.[1]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c John Palis; Geoffrey Hammerson (2004). "Ambystoma bishopi". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.1. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 2013-12-05. 
  2. ^ Pauly, Gregory; Oliver Piskurek; Bradley Shaffer (2007). "Phylogeographic concordance in the southeastern United States: the flatwoods salamander, Ambystoma cingulatum, as a test case". Molecular Ecology 16 (2): 415–429. doi:10.1111/j.1365-294X.2006.03149.x. PMID 17217354. 
  3. ^ Frost, C.C. Presettlement fire regimes in southeastern marshes, peatlands, and swamps. Pages 39-60 in S. I. Cerulean and R. T. Engstrom, eds. Fire in Wetlands: A Management Perspective. Proceedings of the 19th Tall Timbers Fire Ecology Conference, Tallahassee, FL, November 3–6, 1993.
  4. ^ Bishop, D.C.; Haas, C.A. (2005). "Burning trends and potential negative effects of suppressing wetland fires on flatwoods salamanders." (pdf). Natural Areas Journal 25: 290-294. 
  5. ^ Gorman, T.A.; Bishop, D.C.; Haas, C.A. (2009). "Factors related to occupancy of breeding wetlands by flatwoods salamander larvae." (pdf). Wetlands 29: 323-329. 
  6. ^ a b Jennifer McKenzie; K. Martin Perales; Veronica Corbett (2012-03-15). "Ambystoma bishopi". AmphibiaWeb. Retrieved 2013-12-05. 
  7. ^ "Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Proposed Endangered Status for Reticulated Flatwoods Salamander; Proposed Designation of Critical Habitat for Frosted Flatwoods Salamander and Reticulated Flatwoods Salamander; Proposed Rule". Federal Register (United States Fish and Wildlife Service) 73 (157). 2008-08-13. 
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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Comments: See Kraus (1988), Shaffer et al. (1991), and Jones et al. (1993) for phylogenetic analyses of North American Ambystoma . Based on patterns of genetic and morphological variation, Pauly et al. (2007) concluded that Ambystoma cingulatum should be split into two species, A. bishopi west of the Apalachicola-Flint rivers and A. cingulatum east of those rivers.

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