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Old 16th July 2009   #1
Wes von Papinešu
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Default GA Press: A little critter is a big find

JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION (Atlanta, Georgia) 12 July 09 A little critter is a big find (Lee Shearer)
Athens (AP): Bill Peterman just thought he had found a really small amphibian when he found his first patch-nosed salamander in 2007.

But what the University of Missouri graduate student found in a Stephens County stream turned out to be the smallest salamander species ever found in the United States, and so different from others that it counts not only as a new species, but an entirely new genus.

Visiting with the research team of John Maerz, a wildlife professor in the University of Georgia’s Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, Peterman was exploring a Stephens County stream near Toccoa, looking for salamanders with UGA graduate student Joe Milanovich.

“I just pulled back a leaf pile along the stream, and there it was,” Peterman said of that day in April 2007. “It was something I had never seen - it was so small.”

It wasn’t a baby, either, he discovered when he picked up the creature, barely as long as a dime is wide. When Peterman got a closer look at his slippery catch, he saw he had a female full of eggs.

Milanovich also never had seen that type of salamander.

“At first, we had really no clue,” Milanovich said.

So the next day, they took the creature to a leading salamander expert, Piedmont College biology professor Carlos Camp, whom Maerz called “a medicine man of salamander knowledge.”

Camp never had seen that kind of salamander, either.

At first, they all thought it was another small species that had just extended its range, Milanovich said.
But after consulting with other naturalists and comparing the little fellow’s DNA to other salamander species, the scientists realized Peterman and Milanovich had found a salamander so different it deserved its own genus, the researchers wrote in an article just published in the Journal of Zoology.

Camp and others now have found the little patch-noses — scientific name Urspelerpes brucei — in three streams in Georgia and one just across the border in South Carolina, Camp said.

The researchers are trying to learn more about the creature’s range, life cycle and ecology.
The graduate students’ find is the first new genus of four-footed creatures discovered in the United States in more than 50 years, Maerz said.

“For someone like myself to have even a peripheral role is a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” he said.

But scientists exploring Georgia are likely to turn up more previously unknown creatures in the future, Camp and Maerz predicted - Georgia is one of the most biodiverse areas on Earth.

Camp has helped identify two new species of salamander in Georgia. His first was in 1999 in Northwest Georgia.
“It shows that in very small creatures, we really don’t know what’s out there,” Camp said.

“Georgia is a very large state, and we have representatives of most of the major Eastern ecoregions,” Maerz said.
More than 10 percent of different types of salamanders and 8 percent of turtle species in the entire world live in Georgia, Maerz said.

“When you find these kinds of things … it gives you a sense that there are still significant things out there to discover, even in well-explored and populated places,” Maerz said.

“It does also make you wonder how many things have disappeared that we never knew existed,” he said.

Last edited by Kaysie; 16th July 2009 at 17:47. Reason: Separated paragraphs
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