The Texas blind salamander is highly adapted for life in an aquatic, underground environment. Since this amphibian lives it total darkness, it has no need for vision, and its eyes are reduced to two black spots under its skin. It lacks pigment and appears a translucent white color. The head is wide and flattened. Bright red gills protrude from the throat area and are present from birth. They reach 3.5 to 5.5 inches (9 to 14 centimeters) in length and have thin, elongated legs to support their weight. Their finned tail makes up a large portion of their body length.
These salamanders have a very restricted range in the United States. They are only found in water-filled caves fed by the Edwards Aquifer in Hays County, Texas, where they depend on a constant supply of clean, cool water.
In their isolated habitat, Texas blind salamanders are the top predators. The salamander preys on aquatic invertebrates, such as snails and shrimp. It’s very sensitive to slight changes in water pressure, which allows it to find prey by sensing their movements.
Little is known about the reproduction of Texas blind salamanders, but they are believed to reproduce year-round. Females in a laboratory setting have been observed initiating breeding, even nipping at a male’s side to get his attention. In captivity, these salamanders have been recorded to live for 10 years.
Because their range is so restricted and they are facing threats of water pollution and overuse, these salamanders are incredibly vulnerable to extinction. They are federally listed as endangered. In 2013 the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service approved a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) that protects San Marcos Springs and nearby Comal Springs, two areas that depend on the water supplied by the Edwards Aquifer. The plan includes habitat restoration and mitigation to minimize stress on the endangered species, including the Texas blind salamander, from low water flows.
Texas blind salamanders rarely venture to the surface. They’re only seen above ground when their water source pushes them upward.
Herps of Texas
Texas Parks & Wildlife Department
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
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