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Help with Desmognathus eggs

This is a discussion on Help with Desmognathus eggs within the Plethodontids and Lungless Salamanders (Bolitoglossa, Eurycea, Plethodon, etc.) forums, part of the Species, Genus & Family Discussions category; Today was what I thought would be a great day for a quick herping trip. It was in the low ...

Plethodontids and Lungless Salamanders (Bolitoglossa, Eurycea, Plethodon, etc.) The largest, and one of the most diverse groups of salamanders, these salamanders have all evolved to breathe solely through their skin and are found almost exclusively in North America.

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Old 6th September 2011   #1 (permalink)
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Default Help with Desmognathus eggs

Today was what I thought would be a great day for a quick herping trip. It was in the low 70's and rainy all day, so I took a quick trip to the mountains. After an hour of so of flipping logs and rocks and finding nothing but centipedes, we found a small seep/creek. I thought I would flip some rocks since I had just built a 20g stream setup for potential Eurycea or Desmognathus. I found what I believe to be a Desmognathus fuscus. It was pretty large (I haven't bothered with an accurate id right now because I don't want to stress the sal out further). As I was leaving I went to pluck up a small patch of moss from the bank and immediately found what I believe to be Desmognathus fuscus burrows with egg clutches and adults. As I peeled back more moss, I found at least 4 of these burrows. I didn't want to disturb the habitat anymore so I quit. I did collect one female and her egg mass and would like to know if anyone has experience with this species and raising eggs/larvae. I've used the search function and the web to try and find a bit of information on this but haven't found anything. I have the large Desmognathus in quarantine with some of the moss from the bank and tiny bit of water. The female with the eggs in a small plastic container with the moss and her clutch. I would like to move them to the stream setup but the female seems to be half the size of the larger Desmognathus and I am not sure how to handle the eggs. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Sorry for the long post.



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Old 6th September 2011   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Help with Desmognathus eggs

I'd say there's a good chance that you have two different species of desmo, and they are commonly predators of one another. Housing them together may not be a good idea. They also typically have different habitats and habits AND reproductive methods. Identifying your animals would be a good idea before working out the rest.



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Old 6th September 2011   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: Help with Desmognathus eggs

Thanks. You are probably correct on the difference in species. Desmognathus are very tough to identify sometimes. I definitely don't intend on housing them together. I should have made that clear in the original post. Even if they are the sames species I wouldn't house together due to the major size differential. I will try and get some pics soon. It will be at least a week before I move either of them out of quarantine to a permanent home. My main concern is the egg clutch. The larvae are very alive inside the eggs, I just want to provide them with a good chance of hatching and surviving. I took the eggs as I didn't want to take more than a couple of adults from the area. Btw the sals are in a room around 68 degrees. Do the eggs need to be cooler?



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Old 6th September 2011   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: Help with Desmognathus eggs

Ok, here are some pics of the two Desmos. The pics aren't great as I took them on my phone, but I hope they are good enough for you to get an idea of what I am dealing with.
Any help on the proper ID would be greatly appreciated as well as any help with the care of the eggs and larvae if they hatch.
Click the image to open in full size.This is the large guy. Definitely appears lighter in color. Light colored belly.
Click the image to open in full size.Click the image to open in full size.
And now here is the Fuscus? with the egg clutch. She is much smaller. The eggs were on land at the seep bank under moss.
Click the image to open in full size.another of the small female. She is tiny compared to the big guy.
Click the image to open in full size.and finally a size comparison between the two.
Click the image to open in full size.



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Old 6th September 2011   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: Help with Desmognathus eggs

That, I can't tell you. My experience with desmos is limited, but I can say they tend to be rather heat sensitive. If your big apparent fuscus is doing ok, then it's probably cool enough. Since the eggs were laid in land and are being attended, making sure they don't get too warm might be enough.

Here are some major clues for identification:
1) tail shape - this can really limit the number of possible species.
2) distribution [ie, locality]. Many species can be ruled out because they aren't known within hundreds of miles. Likewise, sometimes the presence of certain species can be clue to which other species should be present.
3) habitat - terrestrial vs shoreline vs aquatic.
4) reproduction - direct developing vs aquatic larvae.

Without cracking a field guide or reviewing the taxonomy, I'd say your options are nicely limited and ID shouldn't be too hard.



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Old 6th September 2011   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: Help with Desmognathus eggs

Both of these guys were collected in Buncombe County NC. About 4-5 feet from each other. The larger was in the water and the smaller was under moss on the damp bank in a small burrow with her clutch of eggs.



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Old 7th September 2011   #7 (permalink)
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Default Re: Help with Desmognathus eggs

Your second salamander (the smaller one) looks like a D. fuscus or D. conanti. Both are found in South Carolina. We've only got the latter of that pair in Mississippi. I know that for D. conanti, the dorsal pattern can range from large, beautiful, bright spots, to barely outlined spots, to a broad band down the back, to no large spots and only dark flecks (larger individuals). As for the first (larger) individual, I'm not sure. SC has more duskies than MS.



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Old 7th September 2011   #8 (permalink)
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Default Re: Help with Desmognathus eggs

The larger individual was found in the water, the smaller was found on land with her egg clutch. Both were found in Buncombe County NC a few feet from each other. Thanks! Any advice on the eggs would be great! Could the larger be Desmognathus ochrophaeus?



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Old 7th September 2011   #9 (permalink)
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Red face Re: Help with Desmognathus eggs

As for the eggs, keep them cool. If they are kept too warm, they will die. For the species identification, I think you have two different species on your hands. The size difference is so great, they can't be the same species. I don't have any specific experience with Desmognathus, but I have kept plethodontids. Hope this helps!

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Default Re: Help with Desmognathus eggs

I haven't had any experience with Desmognathus ochrophaeus, so I'd only be able to give you my opinion based on what is readily found in field guides and on amphibiaweb.org. Try searching for that species using the search function on this website. At the least, that could put you in touch with others that have had experiences with Desmognathus ochrophaeus.

As for the size difference between these two critters, I wouldn't say that it's abnormal to see that much of a difference within the same species. There is a spring that I visit where I'll find D. conanti that range in size from a little longer than the last digit on my thumb to ones whose tails hang off of my palm when I hold them (very quantitative measurements).




Last edited by Lamb; 7th September 2011 at 20:40.
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Old 7th September 2011   #11 (permalink)
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Cool Re: Help with Desmognathus eggs

I think D. conanti might be very possible. I checked the AmphibiaWeb account and it looks very similar to your larger specimen. Gook luck!

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Default Re: Help with Desmognathus eggs

Well, it looks like all but 2 or 3 of the possible D. Fuscus eggs have hatched. I am fearing they are premature though as the yolk sac is still in tact and they are only about 1 cm long. They are swimming around. The mother was trying to eat them, so I got them out and in a new tub. Should I put something in the tub to oxygenate the water? Thanks. Not feeling good about this.



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Old 8th September 2011   #13 (permalink)
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Post Re: Help with Desmognathus eggs

Well, I am not familiar keeping Desmognathus sp. larvae, but make sure you keep the water cool. I would say anything above 75 F would be lethal. What is your temparature right now? If they are swimming around they are probably on the right track. If I could say one thing about your larvae, I would say keep them cool.

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Default Re: Help with Desmognathus eggs

I think that with larvae that have just hatched you could probably get away with keeping them in a container with a lot of surface area, shallow-ish aged tap-water (say 2 in), and keeping the water cold. If you're worried, you could always get a small air stone and adjust the hose so that it doesn't make huge bubbles. They shouldn't be producing very much waste initially, so you wouldn't need to do water changes too frequently. Maybe 1/4 the water 1-2 times a week? I've never raised Desmognathus larvae, though, so others may have better suggestions.



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Default Re: Help with Desmognathus eggs

Hey Guys-

Thanks for all the help. All 5 are swimming around in about 1" of dechlorinated tap water.I have an air stone that I can use if I need to. I have been feverishly searching for info on rearing these larvae and haven't found much. I read that with some Desmos, the larvae stay with the mother up to 10 days before wriggling down into the water and developing gills. I placed all of these guys on the the land portion and they have all wriggled down into the water and seem to be ok. No gills that I can see. I also read that they don't eat right away as they are absorbing the yolk sac. Any ideas for super small food items? These guys are super tiny. I mostly have terrestial salamanders and haven't dealt with many semi-aquatics aside from my P. Rubers that obviously eat larger prey. I am confident that I will be able to provide the adults with the proper enclosure, both of which are set up and waiting to cycle through, but these babies will be a challenge. If anyone has any tips feel free to let me know. I will update soon. Thanks!



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Old 8th September 2011   #16 (permalink)
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Default Re: Help with Desmognathus eggs

Oh and the room temp is around 68F and they are close to the cooling vent.



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Old 8th September 2011   #17 (permalink)
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Default Re: Help with Desmognathus eggs

Moving eggs is not a good idea. I'll be surprised if they live. You should have just covered them up and left the be. Collecting an adult or 2 for your tank is one thing removing the next generation of offspring is never a good thing.



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Old 8th September 2011   #18 (permalink)
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Default Re: Help with Desmognathus eggs

I would have thought that baby brine shrimp wold be perfect, if you can make a hatchery. Microworm cold be used, too, until you can get them onto Daphnia, whiteworm and grindal worm.

It is generally thought that removing eggs is less damaging than removing adults froma population, as almost no eggs reach maturity anyway and the adults that have survived to breed are those that are most fit and have survived the rigours of selection. Removing one clutch removes a small number of potential future adults, but removing an adult removes all of their future offspring, effectively, rather than just one clutch.

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Old 8th September 2011   #19 (permalink)
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Default Re: Help with Desmognathus eggs

I've bred and raised quite a few Desmognathus welteri (and D aeneus, but they don't have an aquatic larval stage). Be careful with the larvae when they have the yolk sac as they are very fragile and can rupture. They will not need any food until the yolk (white) is gone, which can be a month if your temps are low. Keep them below 70F, 3 or so to a deli cup with about 1.5" of water in it, and maybe some small gravel or sand and a tiny clump of java moss. You will not need to change the water often, just a partial change 1x/wk as long as gravel and moss come from an established tank or the wild. Easiest way would be to suck about 1/2 out with a turkey baster and pour a little in to top it off.

When the yolk is gone try brine shrimp nauplii, then whiteworms working your way up to blackworms. They are not very hard to raise as long as they didn't hatch prematurely.

Not sure on the species, but care is the same for all the medium sized stream dwelling desmogs. You could try emailing Jim Petranka, as he is quite familiar with the Desmognathus in that part of NC.

Removing eggs from the wild is less damaging than removing a breeding adult. In either case two desmogs and an egg mass will not harm Boone County's salamander population and the appreciation you gain and share in keeping them will only help them.

Best of luck and feel free to contact me if you have any specific questions.
Tim




Last edited by taherman; 8th September 2011 at 12:04.
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Old 8th September 2011   #20 (permalink)
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Default Re: Help with Desmognathus eggs

Thanks for all the great info guys! I have always read that collecting eggs is much better than removing adults. If I am wrong here, my apologies, but SC/NC has no shortage of Desmos. I have never been in a small stream where I haven't found a multitude of them. In this case there were around 7 eggs which in the wild I would be amazed if even one would have survived due to Desmos cannibalistic tendencies. There were at least 4-5 more females with egg clusters as well that I left undisturbed within a 4 ft area. In SC/NC salamanders are often WC for resale and for those of us who want to learn more about breeding and rearing larvae I think it is a valuable experience in helping to curb potential collection for resale. I thank you so much for your valuable insight and I will update as these guys progress. I hope we can get a couple of survivors out of the mix. They seem quite resilient.

Currently room temp is 68 and they are near the cooling vent.
The container has a little over 1" of water with a small bit of java moss from one of my established tanks. 2 or 3 small stones are in there as well.

Thanks again guys!



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