The reticulated flatwoods salamander is one of the world’s most endangered species, and researchers at the San Antonio Zoo say they’ve found a way to save it.
Danté Fenolio, vice president for the Center for Conservation and Research at the zoo, and his team have spent 11 years working on preventing the species’ extinction. Now, he says they’ve managed to successfully breed the amphibian.
“We manipulated things so that the humidity levels were appropriate,” Fenolio says. “We noticed some prereproductive behavior, and we got lucky and we were able to get them to breed.”
Breeding the flatwoods salamander was anything but easy. Fenolio says that the endangered species lives a “secretive lifestyle,” which made it difficult to study. The salamanders spend the majority of their time underground, and only come out during the rainy season to lay eggs. Recently, though, droughts and unpredictable rain have affected their breeding habits, which is what led to their endangered status. This species of salamander also tends to have vitamin deficiencies, and are hard to breed in captivity.
“This salamander is unlike any other species of salamander,” Fenolio says. “They have very specific needs and they need to see very specific conditions.”
Fenolio says after going through this process, he is hopeful for the future of all endangered amphibians, not just the flatwoods salamander.
“We’ll be sure to get a publication out there telling everybody how we did what we did, and I’m sure there will be people that come along and improve on the process,” Fenolio says. “That’s exactly what we want.”
Written by Samantha Carrizal.