The Barton Springs Salamander (Euycea sosorum) is an endangered salamander from the Hill Country of Texas and is found entirely within the Austin City limits. Central Texas salamanders are not well understood and are threatened by the potential of diminishing water quantity and water quality degradation. This species is known only from three hydrologically connected sets of springs in and adjacent to Austin’s Barton Springs swimming pool.
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Monitoring of these populations can provide useful information to help understand and protect this species as it is found at several hydrologically connected spring sites. Biologists from the city monitor each site once per month and are able to make estimates on population sizes based on these numbers. Houston Zoo staff assist in these efforts at one of the four sites used for monitoring.
The Edwards Plateau of the Central Texas Hill Country is home to a number of endemic salamanders. Some of these salamanders are troglodytic and others are surface dwellers. Initially most individuals were assigned to one or two species and these species were thought to be widespread, occurring in different aquifers and cave systems. After the application of molecular techniques and fine scale morphological and behavioral studies, a number of new species were described, brining the total number to thirteen. Three species of Hill Country Salamander are listed as threatened or endangered by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. In addition, Texas Parks and Wildlife lists six species as threatened or endangered. The threats to the Hill Country salamanders are varied and encompass many factors that face biodiversity in general. However, the biology of these species and their small geographic ranges elevate the risk of the population’s extirpations as a result of any single catastrophic event. This species is listed as endangered by the USFWS. This species is also listed a high priority in the Texas Wildlife Action Plan (2005-2010). A single catastrophic event, such as a petroleum spill within the watershed or a drought, could cause extinction of this species very rapidly.