Where are all the plethodontid keepers?

ozarkhellbender

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It seems to me that plethodontid keepers are few and far between. I find this slightly ironic considering that Plethodontidae is the largest and most diverse family of salamanders. So why do we see so few captive plethodontids?
 

Logan

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If It helps I use to keep 3 types of plethodon when I was younger and someday soon plan to start a plethodon dorsalis breeding project.
 

Molch

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I'm guessing because of

1 )their very hidden lifestyle
2) the fact that they are not as easily bred in captivity as other salamander families
 

ozarkhellbender

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Logan: That's cool! I wish you good luck with your Plethodon dorsalis breeding project!

Molch: That's pretty much what I suspected.

I would like to try my hand at breeding some of the more common species. Right now I'm not keeping any Plethodontid species, but this spring I'd like to collect a few. When I was a kid, I used to go out into the woods around my house and collect Plethodon albagula. I'd turn over a long and there would be 2-3 big healthy P. albagula. I'd take them back to my house and keep them for about a week, then let them go. Recently, I kept Eurycea lucifuga for a short period of time, I found out they are great escape artists.
 

Molch

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I hope you succeed. I find plethodonts fascinating and beautiful. My first glimpse of them was on my first visit to the US when I was 17. I got away from my group in Kentucky and slipped into a creek bottom to turn over rocks, and voila - a long-tailed salamander; might have been P. longicauda or close relative. I remember being completely surprised at how quick and nimble they were - like lizards. Very unlike the European sals I was used to.
 

ozarkhellbender

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I hope so too. I read the thread with the paper about mass-rearing plethodontid eggs and I've been working on an idea for adapting a technique for mass-rearing sturgeon eggs that they used at the fish hatchery I worked at. They had these large acrylic cylinders with a pipe in the center. Water was forced down the pipe and up through the bottom of the cylinder so you have this constant current that gently rolled the eggs, keeping them oxygenated and free of fungus. But that's getting into another topic. I'd have to say that Plethodontids are my favorite caudates as well, especially members of the genus Eurycea, Bolitoglossa, and Pseudoeurycea.
 

firedreams

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My fiance and I keep a pair of P. Cinereus - who are both wonderful and outgoing! Our female appears to be gravid and we are hoping for eggs!
 

FrogEyes

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Biggest reason? Familiarity breeds contempt. Everyone in this thread so far is North American, and exotic foreign species are inherintly more interesting to the average person. Many are also protected in at least part of their range. In combination, that means that very few enter the pet trade, so they don't get much chance to develop a following. Those of us keen enough to seek them out have to snap up the few species which do enter the trade, or go out and catch them ourselves. Given the small ranges [and the fact I'm in the plethodontid gap], catching them ourselves is often inconvenient at best.

I've worked with over a dozen plethodontids over the years, but currently have only P.chattahoochee and P.idahoensis.
 

ozarkhellbender

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Biggest reason? Familiarity breeds contempt. Everyone in this thread so far is North American, and exotic foreign species are inherintly more interesting to the average person. Many are also protected in at least part of their range. In combination, that means that very few enter the pet trade, so they don't get much chance to develop a following. Those of us keen enough to seek them out have to snap up the few species which do enter the trade, or go out and catch them ourselves. Given the small ranges [and the fact I'm in the plethodontid gap], catching them ourselves is often inconvenient at best.

I've worked with over a dozen plethodontids over the years, but currently have only P.chattahoochee and P.idahoensis.
I don't know if I'd say that familiarity is the biggest reason as Tiger salamanders and other North American ambystomids are much more common in the pet trade, the wild, and this forum. Just look at the Axolotl. Same thing with Notophthalmus species, very common North American species that are often kept by caudate enthusiasts. I think you had it in the second part about catching them being an inconvenience, dealers don't want to take the time and effort to find them.

Also, congratulations on the Plethodon chattahoochee and Plethodon idahoensis!!
 

Greatwtehunter

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It is all about availability. Most people won't keep things that they can't easily purchase online or in a store. I can bet that almost everyone (myself included) that is keeping pleths had to go out and catch their own.
 

Molch

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Biggest reason? Familiarity breeds contempt.
oh, I don't know. It may be just the opposite for some of us. When I decided to add another species, I went for the one I was most familiar with, and that's alpine newts.
 

ozarkhellbender

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It is all about availability. Most people won't keep things that they can't easily purchase online or in a store. I can bet that almost everyone (myself included) that is keeping pleths had to go out and catch their own.
Same here, I occasionally see plethodontids for sale on Kingsnake.com, but that's pretty rare. The Eurycea lucifuga I had I rescued from the hatchery I worked at. I found the little guy hiding from trout in one of the tanks. He was brought in with the spring water that feeds the hatchery.
 

taherman

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Some species make amazingly interesting, very long lived, and not very secretive captives. I've kept 21 species between the zoo and my home collections, and for me they are way more interesting than any Ambystoma or newt I've kept. I'd have to say the number one reason they aren't very popular as captives is that there is not money to be made selling them in the U.S. Laws preclude many native species from interstate commerce and wholesale trade in them, and few people care enough about the species to actually learn where they live, go there, and legally collect them. On top of this, many are not robust enough to survive the physical abuse of commercial exploitation or newbie keepers so those that do end up making it to the pet trade end up dying.

With proper care many of these species will thrive and breed readily. If a fraction of the effort that people put into dart frogs was directed towards plethodontids they would be thriving in captive collections. However the little thumbnail frogs which are every bit, if not more delicate and secretive can be sold for $300 and up, while collection of many of the most colorful or interesting plethodontids is prohibited for commercial exploitation.

That being said, just like dart frogs and many other U.S. herps, there is a huge market for them in Europe once they are smuggled (or legally exported?) beyond the reach of their native country's laws.
 

Azhael

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Very true, there seems to be a wave of american caudates being imported to europe recently. I ignore the legal status of those importations but they include many species. I recently saw Desmognathus and Necturus for sale in an spanish online shop, very obviously WC. There is also an abundance of ambystomatids, plethodontids and Notophthalmus around. It doesn´t really work well, i must say. They tend to suffer the same fate as asian caudates, being kept in bad conditions, being purchased by impulse in most cases and having trouble, generally speaking, adapting to captivity.

I agree about the grass being greener and all that, but i´m with Molch, many of the species i like the most are those i´m most familiar with (that´s why i´m a Lissotriton helveticus nut, which very few people seem to care about xD).

I find plethodontids to be fascinating and lots of fun since it is such a varied family. I really hope we see more captive breeding in the future :D
 

ozarkhellbender

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Ah Tim, I was hoping you'd get in here on this since Toledo Zoo is officially the Plethodontid breeding center of the world :D!! I'm curious as to what species that 21 includes. I am hoping to really get going into Plethodontids, and I'd love to start breeding them.

Azhael, I think it's interesting you mentioned Desmognathus and Necturus because I see both of those popping up in the American trade lately as well. I've seen one company offering WC Eurycea bislineata and some unknown WC species of slimy salamander. When I see North American Plethodontids for sale online, they go for very low prices, usually in the $6-$10 range.
 

taherman

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Sorry, miscounted in my head. 20+1 subspecies. Bred 7 and had eggs from an 8th which I am very very bitter about losing this year.

Aneides aeneus
Aneides flavipunctatus (niger)
Aneides lugubris
Bolitoglossa conanti
Bolitoglossa rufescens
Desmognathus aeneus
Desmognathus monticola
Desmognathus welteri
Ensatina eschscholtzii
Eurycea bislineata
Eurycea longicauda
Eurycea lucifuga
Eurycea wilderae
Gyrinophilus p. porphyriticus
Gyrinophilus p. duryi
Hemidactylium scutatum
Plethodon glutinosus
Plethodon petraeus
Plethodon yonahlossee
Pseudotriton montanus diastictus
Pseudotriton r. ruber
 

ozarkhellbender

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Sorry, miscounted in my head. 20+1 subspecies. Bred 7 and had eggs from an 8th which I am very very bitter about losing this year.

Aneides aeneus
Aneides flavipunctatus (niger)
Aneides lugubris
Bolitoglossa conanti
Bolitoglossa rufescens
Desmognathus aeneus
Desmognathus monticola
Desmognathus welteri
Ensatina eschscholtzii
Eurycea bislineata
Eurycea longicauda
Eurycea lucifuga
Eurycea wilderae
Gyrinophilus p. porphyriticus
Gyrinophilus p. duryi
Hemidactylium scutatum
Plethodon glutinosus
Plethodon petraeus
Plethodon yonahlossee
Pseudotriton montanus diastictus
Pseudotriton r. ruber
Wow, that's amazing! I am especially envious of the Bolitoglossa species. Are those both at the zoo or from your private collection?
 

ozarkhellbender

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Ah, I see, so you have to share them :rolleyes:. Bolitoglossa are my absolute favorite caudates. I wish we had a healthy established captive population here in the United States. They are at the top of my "If I ever got the chance." list.
 

jaster

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Until recently, I have only been interested in Plethodontid species but my new T marms have shifted that view a bit. I don't have many right now but have kept a few over time. They are just my favorite salamanders, mainly because no matter where I go (around here) I can find around 9 species....
 
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