The San Marcos National Fish Hatchery and Technology Center maintains refugium for four federally-endangered and two threatened species: Texas wild rice, Texas blind salamanders, fountain darters, Comal Springs riffle beetles, San Marcos salamanders and the Devils River minnow.
The Texas Blind Salamander is an endangered species found only in the Edwards Aquifer underneath and near the City of San Marcos, Texas. This amphibian is only found above ground when flowing water from the springs push it to the surface.
Very little is known about this species’ reproduction because its underground habitat makes studying this species difficult.. Juveniles have been collected throughout the year so there appears to be no “set” breeding season (photo of eggs, below).
Texas Blind Salamander
The Texas blind salamander is a sightless, cave-dwelling salamander that reaches a mature length of about 13 centimeters (5 inches). It is a slender, frail-legged amphibian, white or pinkish in color with translucent skin. The head and snout are are flattened. In dark, subterranean habitat where this amphibian essentially is the top predator, sight is unimportant -- Its eyes are small and completely hidden beneath the skin. Salamanders spend their entire life in complete darkness.
About a decade after the Texas blind salamander was placed on the federal endangered species list in 1967, Glenn Longley, director of the Edwards Aquifer Research and Data Center at Texas
State University got a government permit to collect the salamanders. He put a net over the end of the 2-foot-diameter pipe to catch them.
He collected and handed over hundreds of the 5-inch-long salamanders to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for a captive breeding program at the nearby San Marcos National Fish Hatchery.
Why is it endangered?
The Texas Blind Salamander lives in a very unique habitat – subterranean waters known as the Edwards Aquifer. This aquifer has the greatest species diversity of any known aquifer system – over 40 species, most of them are as endangered as the salamander. Because this habitat is so unique, there are many reasons it is vulnerable to destruction.
What is the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service doing about it?
Biologists study this salamander to determine its life history and ecological requirements. This research is essential to finding out ways to protect their populations in the wild and someday have them removed from the Endangered Species List.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has developed a refugium population of Texas blind salamanders.
A refugium is critical to the future of this salamander in the event a natural or human-caused incident destroys their natural habitat.
Threats to Survival
1. Clear, clean water is an essential component of this habitat. As the human population increases in the area, more water is needed for drinking and other uses. More people also means more impervious surface, which diverts rainwater that would normally recharge the aquifer.
2. As water becomes more scarce, natural events, such as droughts, become more serious. Historically, severe droughts caused the Comal Springs to stop flowing for 5 months in 1956. Water is becoming more and more limited as demand for clean water grows in the area.
3. Threats to water quality include hazardous materials spills, increased sewage discharge, and increased use of fertilizers and pesticides as development continues in nearby cities.
For additional information, contact:
San Marcos National Fish Hatchery & Technology Center
500 East McCarty Lane
San Marcos, Texas 78666