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Assessment Results

© 2017 Ben Thesing (1 of 26 )

AmphibiaWeb species account

IUCN Red List assessment

Conservation Needs Assessment

Desmognathus wrighti ,   Pygmy Salamander
Assessed for:  United States   on: 23 Dec 2017   by: Walter Smith  
Assessment Status: Completed  
Order:   Caudata     Family:   Plethodontidae

IUCN Global Red List:   Least Concern (LC)   
IUCN National Red List:   (not assessed)   
Distribution:     United States  
Evolutionary Distinctiveness score:   25.52874887 
Recommended Conservation Actions:   Ex Situ Research  , Conservation Education   
Additional Comments:   Initial assessment data compiled by Julian R. Harrison from “Amphibian Declines: The Conservation Status of United States Species”, edited by Michael Lannoo (©2005 by the Regents of the University of California), used with permission of the editor. The book is available from UC Press, http://www.ucpress.edu/books/pages/9484.html, and species accounts can be found on AmphibiaWeb, www.amphibiaweb.org. Original species account transcribed by Kevin Johnson. 

Question #Short NameQuestion TextResponseComments
1 Extinction risk Current IUCN Red List category. [Data obtained from the IUCN Red List.] Least Concern (LC)
2 Possibly extinct Is there a strong possibility that this species might be extinct in the wild? No / unlikely Pygmy Salamanders appear to be abundant across their range and occur in areas with a high proportion of protected state and federal conservation land.
3 Phylogenetic significance The taxon’s Evolutionary Distinctiveness (ED) score, as generated by the ZSL EDGE program. (These data are not editable by Assessors). ED value 20 - 50
4 Protected habitat Is a population of at least 50% of the individuals of the taxon included within a reliably protected area or areas? Yes / probably Much of this species' range occurs in areas that overlap with federal conservation lands, including national forests and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
5 Habitat for reintroduction Does enough suitable habitat exist, either within or outside of currently protected areas that is suitable for potential reintroduction or translocation? Yes / probably Much of the Pygmy Salamander's range overlaps with federal conservation lands (national forests, national parks) that afford some degree of habitat protection.
6 Previous reintroductions Have reintroduction or translocation attempts been made in the past for this species? No
7 Threat mitigation Are the threats facing the taxon, including any new and emerging threats not considered in the IUCN Red List, potentially reversible? Species does not require conservation action Pygmy Salamanders appear to be common in areas without significant habitat disturbance.
8 Over-collection from the wild Is the taxon suffering from unsustainable collection within its natural range, either for food, for the pet trade or for any other reason, which threatens the species’ continued persistence in the wild? No / unlikely
9 Population recovery Is the known population of this species in the wild large enough to recover naturally, without ex situ intervention if threats are mitigated? Yes / probably Past work on this species has suggested that populations are locally abundant within suitable habitat conditions.
10 Biological distinctiveness Does the taxon exhibit, for example, a distinctive reproductive mode, behaviour, aspect of morphology or physiology, within its Class (e.g. Amphibia, Reptilia etc.)? No aspect of biology known to be exceptional
11 Cultural/socio-economic importance Does the taxon have a special human cultural value (e.g. as a national or regional symbol, in a historic context, featuring in traditional stories) or economic value (e.g. food, traditional medicine, tourism) within its natural range or in a wider global context? No Several congeners are known to be used as fish bait across much of the southern Appalachian Mountains and surrounding regions. It is currently unknown if Pygmy Salamanders are also commonly used for this purpose, although their more restricted range and small body size relative to other Dusky Salamanders makes this unlikely.
12 Scientific importance Is the species vital to current or planned research other than species-specific ecology/biology/conservation? (e.g. human medicine, climate change, environmental pollutants and conservation science), within its Class (e.g. Amphibia, Reptilia etc.)? Research dependent upon < 6 species (incl. this taxon) Hamed (2014) included a more northernly-distributed sister species (Desmognathus organi) as one of several lungless salamander taxa used to study the current and future impacts of climate change on high-elevation lungless salamanders. Given the highly similar ecological characteristics and geographic location of Pygmy Salamanders and D. organi, this species can likely also serve as a key model organism for investigating climate change-related impacts on the distribution of high-elevation taxa.
13 Ex situ research Does conserving this species (or closely related species) in situ depend upon research that can be most easily carried out ex situ? No
14 Husbandry analog Do the biological and ecological attributes of this species make it suitable for developing husbandry regimes for more threatened related species? i.e. could this species be used in captivity to help to develop husbandry and breeding protocols which could be used for a similar, but more endangered species at a later stage? Yes Several other Dusky Salamanders have similar ecological attributes as Pygmy Salamanders, which may be useful in developing husbandry and breeding protocols for other taxa.
15 Captive breeding Has this species been successfully maintained and bred in captivity? Yes, bred to F1
16 Educational potential Is the species especially diurnal/active/colourful and therefore suited to be an educational ambassador for conservation of this group of species? No
17 Mandate Is there an existing conservation mandate recommending the ex situ conservation of this taxon? No
18 Range State approval Would a proposed ex situ initiative for this species be supported (and approved) by the range State (either within the range State or out-of-country ex situ)? Yes / probably Pygmy Salamanders have previously been held ex situ, although consultation with state wildlife officials would be key for designing any future ex situ initiatives.
19 Founder specimens Are sufficient animals of the taxon available or potentially available (from wild or captive sources) to initiate the specified ex situ program? Yes / probably Pygmy Salamanders appear to be abundant in many places across their current distribution.
20 Taxonomic status Has a complete taxonomic analysis of the species in the wild been carried out, to fully understand the functional unit you wish to conserve (i.e. have species limits been determined)? Yes Pygmy Salamanders were originally described as a single species ranging from the Nantahala Mountains and surrounding regions of extreme western North Carolina, north through the Great Smoky Mountains, and northeast along the Blue Ridge to the Mount Rogers area in southwest Virginia. However, Crespi et al. (2010) found evidence that populations north and south of the French Broad River exhibit substantial differences in allozymic loci and mitochondrial DNA sequences, as well as significant differences in ventral pigmentation, body size, and ecological (climatic) niche space. As a result, Desmognathus wrighti was retained for populations south and west of the French Broad River, while populations north and east of the French Broad River were elevated to a new taxon, D. organi (Northern Pygmy Salamander).

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