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Red spots on Green Salamanders

SaraSalamander

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While conducting research on the natural history of green salamanders (Aneides aeneus) in NE Alabama 2005-2007, I observed several individuals with red protrusions on their bodies. The spots were usually located on their feet, limbs, tail, and sides of body. The number of spots ranged from 1-7. Some ideas were that the spots were mites or were infected areas. I not so sure about the mite idea because we examined the spots on one individual under a electron microscope and saw that there was blood circulating through the spots. They appear to be more like swollen areas of the skin. Since the salamanders were a state listed species of concern we were not allowed to euthanize one for closer inspection. I am curious to know if anyone else has observed this in green salamanders or other salamander species.
 

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SalamanderAlan

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Sara,

I am a volunteer with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission and we work on various threatened/endangered animal species. My own specialty is the Green Salamander which I have been working on in western NC for about 7 years. I would estimate that we see the red spotting on perhaps 20-25% of the juvenile and adult Greens that we get a good look at. We have always assumed that the spotting is a mite infestation. Jim Petranka (author of 'The Salamanders of the United States and Canada') teaches nearby at the University of North Carolina at Asheville and he also believes it to be mites. We now have a plan with Jim for me to capture a Green with several red spots and quickly take it to UNCA so Jim can knock it out with Ora-jel and then excise the supposed mite and later key it out as to species. The salamander would recover and be returned to its home rock. Attached is a photo I took this July of a nesting Green female with eggs and she shows a few of the red spots. Will let you know how the excision goes after it happens.
 

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SaraSalamander

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Alan,

The spots on the individual in your photo look very similar to what I was seeing too. We were not allowed to biopsy any tissue from the salamanders in Alabama unfortunately.
I would love to hear about what you end up finding out.

Thanks,
Sara
 

Kaysie

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I've observed similar spots on Notopthalmus. I also believe they're a mite infestation. I found one noto in GSMNP that was absolutely infested. It must have had 30 spots.
 

eljorgo

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Its indeed a parasite mite. I have its scientific name somewhere. It lives under the salamander skin as an internal parasite. I've had Desmognathus with these... But these animals parasiting Salamandridae animals its an absolutely new thing for me (N. viridiscens)
 

SalamanderAlan

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When we first starting noticing heavy infestations of these things on Green Salamanders we wondered if they would inhibit the Green's ability to leave the rocks and move up into the trees as they normally do when the trees get leafed out in the spring. But that doesn't seem to be the case as the population of Greens remaining in the rocks (some always don't seem to get the word that they are supposed to be in the trees) doesn't seem to be more heavily infested than the population when they are all in the rocks.
 

SaraSalamander

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Wow! 30 spots on an individual newt. Poor guy. :(

Ok, I could see how they would be an internal or subcutaneous parasite. When we looked at the spots under a microscope it looked more like a protrusion of the skin with blood flow and skin pigments. But if the mite is under the skin then that makes more sense.

Is this a native parasite?
 

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SalamanderAlan

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I suspect it'll turn out to be native. Jim Petranka mentioned a genus of mites known to infest Plethodons (I forget exactly which genus) so his current feeling is that our mite will turn out to be a species from that genus.
 

eljorgo

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Let me check the name of the mite for you guys. I have it in a amphibian medicine book. I think its indeed an Native parasite to North America possibly South america too... I've only seen it in Plethodontids from Plethodon and Desmognathus genus both native only to North America.... Its still suprises me a lot to haer reports of these in Salamandridae's... that might be seriously concerning... It could lead to serious contamitanitons here in europe with these mites excaping to wild Salamandrid newts (Triturus/ Lissotriton / Mesotriton) and even salamanders (Salamandra) from the huge wild capture amounts of Plethodon, Desmognathus, Eurycea and Pseudotriton that each year enters Europe's pet shops, specially Spanish ones....

Cheers,
 

SaraSalamander

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It would be interesting to see the geographical range of this mite species. I've yet to see any salamanders here on the West Coast with mite infections making me wonder if the mites are this far west. Also, I wonder if it is just one species of mites or multiple species in the same genus that infect salamanders. And lastly, has anyone observed these spots in frogs?
 

SalamanderAlan

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As mentioned in my September, 2011 entry our plan was to take a mite-infested Green Salamander to Jim Petranka at Univ. of North Carolina at Asheville where he would excise out the mites and later key them to species. That was done but even under a scanning electron microscope Jim was unable to get sufficient details to do the keying, and he has since retired. But in October, 2014 we excised two mites from a Green while in the field. They were immediately preserved in ethanol and then provided to David Stephan, a recently retired entomologist at NCSU. His analysis showed them to definitely be a species of Hannemania and that it was highly likely they were H. dunni Sambon.

Larval Hannemania mites burrow through the skin of salamanders and anurans and encapsulate just under the skin. Externally, the encapsulated larvae appear as conspicuous orange to red colored spots approximately 1 mm in diameter. The mites can remain inside hosts for at least six months and it is unclear what causes them to emerge, but eventually they do and then burrow into the soil to become nonparasitic adult soil mites.


The literature indicates that Hannemania dunni have been found on several species of salamanders (Desmognathus fuscus, D. brimleyorum, Eurycea cirrigera, Plethodon cylindraceus, P. ouachitae, P. caddoensis and P. fourchensis, and on at least one species of frog (Rana palustris).

In our own field work we have not observed these mites, even in cases of heavy infestation, to cause mortality or even obvious discomfort to the Greens. However, other researchers have noted the following for hosts heavily parasitized by Hannemania species of mites. Male Plethodon angusticlavius are less aggressive in territorial disputes during fights with males that have low parasite loads (Maksimowich & Mathis 2000).Males with high parasite loads also have longer latency to foraging times compared to males with low parasite loads (Maksimowich & Mathis 2000).Infestation of the snout can cause damage to the nasolabial groove (Anthony et al. 1994) and this can reduce the chemosensory capability of salamanders and in turn reduce foraging ability and mate acquisition (Jaeger 1981; Dawley 1984).Nonparasitized females can detect parasite loads of males through use of pheromonal markers and nonparasitized females appear to prefer males that also have low parasite loads (Maksimowich & Mathis 2001).


 
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