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Assessment Results

© 2017 Alexander Murray (1 of 14 )

AmphibiaWeb species account

Conservation Needs Assessment

Desmognathus organi ,   Northern pygmy salamander
Assessed for:  United States   on: 28 Dec 2017   by: Walter Smith  
Assessment Status: Completed  
Order:   Caudata     Family:   Plethodontidae

IUCN Global Red List:   (not assessed)   
IUCN National Red List:   (not assessed)   
Distribution:     United States, United States  
Evolutionary Distinctiveness score:   16.45555402 
Recommended Conservation Actions:   Ex Situ Research  , Conservation Education   
Additional Comments:    

Question #Short NameQuestion TextResponseComments
1 Extinction risk Current IUCN Red List category. [Data obtained from the IUCN Red List.] Least Concern (LC) While the species has been recently described and has not been formally assessed by the IUCN, Northern Pygmy Salamanders occur across portions of North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia and appear to be stable across much of their range. The species is listed as Tier III (High Conservation Need) in Virginia.
2 Possibly extinct Is there a strong possibility that this species might be extinct in the wild? No, unlikely
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 A large portion of this species' range overlaps with state or federal conservation lands, including large areas of several national forests.
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 Large areas of protected, publicly-owned conservation lands exist across the range of this species.
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 Most populations of Northern Pygmy Salamanders appear to be stable. While past work has assumed that Northern Pygmy Salamanders are strict residents of high-elevation spruce-fir forests and therefore are potentially highly susceptible to that vegetative community's decline, Hamed (2014) found that the occupancy of the species in Virginia was driven more by elevation and aspect than particular vegetative assemblages. This suggests possibly less habitat specialization than has been previously assumed for the species, at least related to its association with particular types of vegetation.
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
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 While other Dusky Salamanders have been known to experience heavy use as fish bait, it is currently unknown if and how this applies to Northern Pygmy Salamanders. Their widespread use is unlikely, however, due to their small body size, restricted range, and occurrence in generally inaccessible habitats not frequently visited by humans.
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) Northern Pygmy Salamanders have been used, along with several other high-elevation species, as model organisms to examine the impacts of climate change on plethodontid salamanders. Hamed (2014), for example, found a decrease in occupancy probabilities since the 1950s along the lower-elevation portion of the species' range on Whitetop Mountain in Virginia, although the species' overall range on the mountain appears to be stable.
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 This species' ecological attributes are similar to several other Dusky Salamanders, including its sister species (Desmognathus wrighti).
15 Captive breeding Has this species been successfully maintained and bred in captivity? Yes, bred to F1 This organism's sister species, Desmognathus wrighti, has been successfully maintained in captivity and bred to F1 prior to northern populations' elevation to the Northern Pygmy Salamander.
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
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 This species appears to occur in abundant populations across much of its range, particularly in the presence of optimal habitat.
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 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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