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NC has a new species. Meet Carolina Sandhills salamander

Posted December 11, 2020 3:01 p.m. EST
Updated December 11, 2020 6:49 p.m. EST

At 63 different types of salamanders, North Carolina already has more than any other state in the U.S. However, just in time for the holiday season, the Sandhills region has added one more to the list.

Researchers from the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences published results on Friday identifying a new kind of salamander, based on genetic research and physical attributes like size and color.

The Carolina Sandhills Salamander, named after the area it comes from, is a small, red salamander. It comes from the Sandhills area of the state, where game lands and Fort Bragg protect important habitats.

“It’s a real neat critter,” said co-author Alvin Braswell. He was the one who first found the salamander in the late 1960s.

Braswell started to suspect it was a different species in the 1970s and ‘80s. He didn't have the time to focus on the amphibian because of his other responsibilities at the museum, eventually rising to assistant director.

So he passed the job to Bryan Stuart, research curator of herpetology, when Stuart joined the museum in 2008. It wasn’t until five years later, 2013, that Stuart won an award that allowed for detailed genetic research to be done on the salamander.

Specimens were located and collected in seven different North Carolina counties: Harnett, Hoke, Montgomery, Moore, Richmond, Robeson and Scotland.

It is now on the W3 Watch List by the North Carolina Natural Heritage Program, meaning the animal is poorly known in North Carolina and further information is needed to determine its true status.

“This research also shows that there are other undescribed species in this complex that await description, even some that occur in North Carolina,” Stuart said. “So, there is definitely more to do with two-lined salamanders in the state.”

Maybe next year, even more salamanders will slither their way into North Carolina’s list.

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