New Tylototriton species mystery (with photos)

J

john

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This is a large post - a copy of an email, but I hope you like it. The photos described in the text are displayed at the bottom of the post.
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I apologise for the size of the email, but I thought you would be interested in this new mystery that I have come across. Attached to this email are seven photos. Three show what I am familiar with as Tylototriton verrucosus, as written about by Jurgen Fleck and Max Sparreboom in elaphe (in this case an adult female measuring 16 cm total length). Three depict what I will call Tylototriton "x" for the purposes of this communication. The last photograph shows eggs of both species together ("x" is on the left, "verrucosus" is on the right. The eggs of "x" are almost completely brown when compared to those of "verrucosus", and the grey crescent of "x" is/was hard to see, though they are a little further on in development than the "verrucosus" egg. In size, the diameter of an "x" embryo is considerably higher than that of a "verrucosus" embryo, and the jelly layers seem significantly thinner in "x", proportionally speaking.

The adult Tylototriton "x" animal measures 21 cm total length. I'm reasonably certain that it's a male. I know that it is at least 5 years old, but probably more - it was this size when bought in a pet shop 2 years ago. It has lived almost completely aquatic for a long period now, and fertile spawnings have occurred previously. The latest occurred last weekend. In this instance, many or possibly most of the eggs were laid above the water line in crevices of bog wood.

The adult Tylototriton "verrucosus" animal is a female measuring 16 cm total length and though quite young (less than 2 years), it has reached maturity (it has spawned eleven times). Its photos are included to aid in comparisons. It has been living aquatically for at least 7 months.

I would welcome any light that you may be able to shed on the true identification of these animals. I'll list the important features that I have noticed about "x" that seem different when compared to "verrucosus":

1- The body colour of "x" is a light chocolate brown. The tubercles on the rib peaks are a slightly different colour to the body, but not like the light orange on dark brown or on black colouration of the "verrucosus" I have. The colouration of "verrucosus" darkens once kept aquatically for a few weeks. This is not the case in "x".
2- The dorsal ridge of "x" is the same lighter colour as the tubercles, not the main body colour. In "verrucosus" the colour of this ridge is the same as the main body colour.
3- The head of "x" is not as triangular in shape as "verrucosus" (note that the animal in Mamoru Kawamura's photos that were posted on the list last year have a distinctly triangular head).
4- The body of "x" seems more elongated than "verrucosus" (I have compared with "x" thin "verrucosus" to be sure).
5- The tail of "x" is much shorter in height and longer in length, particularly given that this is a breeding male "x".
6- The legs of "verrucosus" are dark in colour and the feet are light in colour. In "x", the feet and the legs are both lightly coloured.
7- There are two distinctly brighter orange/brown areas at each side of the head in "verrucosus" which are not distinct/present in "x" when compared to the rest of the head.
8- The tubercles are more pronounced in "x" than in "verrucosus" and extrude from the body.
9- "x" belongs to a friend and I believe that he has other animals of the same species that are larger (i.e. greater than 21 cm total length) - this is very large for "verrucosus".
10- The eggs and embryos of both species are quite different, even accepting the fact that larger individual animals of one species tend to lay larger eggs than smaller individual animals of the same species. This still does not account for the great difference in embryo colour.

This animal resembles more closely what Anderson described as Tylototriton
verrucosus than any other Tylototriton I've seen or heard of so far. Indeed, it resembles very closely what Shresta described as wild T. verrucosus in Nepal. So, this leaves me very confused as to what I really have and what this newcomer is.

I look forward to hearing your views.







 

thera

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DOn't know what "x" is. Looks like what would happen if you mixed and shanjing with a verrucocsus then used a growth ray and grew it to huge proportions.
 
E

ed

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lol! That's what I was thinking too. "x" looks like a large, very muted colored, aquatic shanjing.

Very interesting conundrum you've got there John.
Since I haven't really seen many other pics of verrucocsus, besides yours, I can't honestly say who has the non-typical type, you or your friend.
Could be like the situation with Cynops pyrrhogaster, and the wide array of subspecies that either look very similiar too, or completely different than the typical form, and yet they are alll technically pyrrhogasters.
 
J

john

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I can't dismiss a Tylototriton shanjing/Tylototriton verrucosus hybrid as one of the possibilities. I have just confirmed with my friend that this animal is the joint biggest of the three he has - the third is slightly smaller. I have heard of Tylototriton shanjing / verrucosus measuring up to 22 cm but I'm not sure which species it was because the statement was made prior to Nussbaum splitting the species in 1995. I know that the parents of my own "verrucosus" are 18 cm long, so large sizes aren't unheard of.

I welcome more opinions.
 
J

john

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The "x" eggs are starting to neurulate. I have about 20 fertile ones so I hope to raise these strange Tylototriton.
 

thera

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that's cool that they are fertile and growing... perhaps there will be an answer to this mystery in the future. Have you contacted Henk or his friends at all?
 
E

ed

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That would be very interesting indeed, a shanjing\verrucosus hybrid.
 
E

eddie

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I think they must be hybreds,like the tqaricha torosa and taricha granulosa that interbreed in the wild,yet its still looks like a mystery.
 
J

john

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I think there is a chance that it is a hybrid, but I don't favour this theory. It is more different to shanjing than it is to verrucosus, and it has some strange features that neither have - the tubercles on the back protrude quite a bit, almost sharp like Echinotriton but not to the same degree. It has tiny round warts between the tubercles and the dorsal ridge, and I've never seen these on verruocosus. And then there's the size...

It's an enigma.
 
N

nimbus2

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There's a lot of taxonomic work yet to be done within the Genus Tylototriton. The salamander currently recognized as "verrucosus" has a huge range: Tibet, Nepal, India, Burma, Thailand, Laos, China, Vietnam, etc. It's certainly feasible that what is currently recognized as verrucosus represents 3 or more different species/subspecies that just haven't been described yet. After all, shanjing was only recently described from verrucosus.

Congratulations on the eggs John, it will be interesting to compare/contrast growth rates and behavior of the two larvae.
 
J

john

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The eggs are developing well at 23 degrees C, and as usual, I will keep a detailed diary of how the larvae progress.

As regards the speciation, I agree that there are probably numerous species with "verrucosus" and that I know of at least two. This "x" would be the third.
 
H

henk

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As many people already pointed out the area of distribution of T. verucosus is quite large and it would thus not be impossible that there are different (sub)species involved.
The whole scenary of Asian salamanders is quite puzzling. try reading the reports on Paramesotriton and eventually Cynops and try to depict which species you have is for most people still a 'challenge'.

Anyway this is not going to be much news , but there's a Japanese webpage http://www.rieo.net/amph/index4.htm
that also shows images of quite some Asian newts : in it we also find images of 2 different T. verucosus, one of the subspecies is told to be more aquatic with a larger tailhight (all period round). But without exact locality data this is puzzling.

Anyway John I also have T. verucosus, coming from a French guy (F-1) which laid both eggs above and under water. Next time they breed I will see of there's a difference or not in egg-colors. In any way my animals are quite huge to I will measure them and put in the info when I have done so.

I have even set out one larvae outdoors in a pool ( 3 weeks ago) and it just grew perfectly... However mine did grow better indoors at 22-25°C.
 
J

john

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Hi Henk.

My T. verrucosus adults and their eggs match those described by Max Sparreboom. The animals are identical to the photos in his elaphe 7(2) article.

If you notice "x"'s tailfin is very diminutive even compared to "normal" verrucosus. Quite the opposite of Mamoru Kawamura's...
 

thera

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actually the tubercles on the back of your "x" look a lot like my shanjing's as far as shape and height. color, not so. His overall shape appears like my male shanjing's except for the head with is more round.
 

thera

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then why did you say "It is more different to shanjing than it is to verrucosus, and it has some strange features that neither have - the tubercles on the back protrude quite a bit, almost sharp like Echinotriton but not to the same degree."

That to me says that you are saying that the tubercles on the back look like echino tubercles.... I think they look like shanjing.
 
J

john

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Ah, I was referring to my comment about the tiny warts between the tubercles and the dorsal ridge. Sorry, bit of a mix up. As for the tubercles, I agree they look vaguely like those of shanjing in the photo, but in person they are much "sharper" than anything you'll see on shanjing. They're not half as spikey as Echinotriton though.
 

thera

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I wish I could see it in person then, it must be weird looking.
 
S

sharon

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I too have one of these strange "X" Tylototritions. I bought it two years ago from a pet shop in TN, I actually bought three at the time. All looked exactly like the one in the photos. However two died from Bumble foot shortly after I got them, although I tried to save them. They did not look like my Shanjing or Verucosus. The one I have left also seems to be a male. While I have not bred it yet, it looks like that in the picture. I thought it was strange from the start, but just figured the three I got were slightly different animals. Now I am wondering if this is a new sub speices, or simply a cross between T.Shanjing and T.Verucosus? This is quite puzzling.
 
J

john

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I'm assuming you mean Tennessee USA? These were purchased in the UK, but also two years ago. Do did the retailer tell you the geographical origin as far as he/she knew it?

"x" has features that neither Tylototriton shanjing nor T. verrucosus have (the semi-sharp tubercles for one thing). Based on the anatomical features alone, I wouldn't be at all surprised if it's as valid a species as T. shanjing. In any case, it's definitely distinct from both, subspecies or species...
 
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