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Captive propagation of the southern dwarf siren (pseudobranchus axanthus)

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Herpetological Review 43(4), 2012
Herpetological Review, 2012, 43(4), 600–601.
© 2012 by Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles
Captive Propagation of the Southern Dwarf Siren
(Pseudobranchus axanthus)
Southern Dwarf Sirens, Pseudobranchus axanthus (Netting
and Goin 1942) are small, fully aquatic, freshwater salamanders
with external gills and a slender eel-like body (Conant and Col-
lins 1991). Two subspecies are recognized, P. a . axanthus and P.
a. belli, both endemic to peninsular Florida, USA. Currently, P.
axanthus is listed by IUCN as a species of Least Concern (LC);
however, the southern populations of belli are thought to have
declined due to historic and ongoing habitat alteration including
drainage of surface waters associated with development (Moler
and Kezer 1993; Petranka 1998). Little is known about life his-
tory and reproduction of P. axanthus. There have only been two
other successful captive breedings of Pseudobranchus to date: P.
striatus (Pfaff and Vause 2002) and P. axanthus (Kowalski 2004).
Captive husbandry.—In September 2009, K. L. Krysko
(FLMNH) donated nine (mixed gender) wild-caught adult P. a.
axanthus from Alachua County, Florida, to the Central Florida
Zoo & Botanical Gardens. The specimens were split into two
groups of five and four individuals. Initially, they were housed
indoors in 38-liter glass aquaria (30 cm depth; pH 7.0 ± 0.1) with
sand substrate (12.9 cm depth), and leaf litter. No artificial light-
ing was offered, although tanks were set near windows to provide
ambient lighting and a natural photoperiod. Specimens were fed
a rotation of live tubifex worms (Tubifex tubifex), HBH brand
Newt & Salamander Bites, Tetra brand spirulina flakes, and San
Francisco Bay brand frozen brine shrimp three times per week.
Small native snails were offered occasionally, but consumption
was never observed. The preferred food item appeared to be tu-
bifex worms. The Dwarf Sirens would burrow into the sand sub-
strate with only their heads exposed. They would grab food items
that landed near their heads. On many occasions, Dwarf Sirens
were observed nosing food items around the enclosure before
consuming them. No reproductive behaviors were observed
during this initial period.
In April 2010, Tuff Stuff Product rubber cattle troughs mea-
suring 152 cm (length) × 91 cm (width) × 61 cm (height) were es-
tablished outdoors (Fig. 1). Initial water depth was set at 15.2 cm
(90% tap water, 10% pond water). Rainwater was allowed to ac-
cumulate in the troughs until the water depth reached 30.48 cm
above the bottom substrate. The bottom was covered with 2.54
cm of sand with a covering of leaf detritus 0.51 cm thick. Initial
water temperature was 27.8°C. Various species of aquatic plants
including Parrot Feather (Myriophyllum aquaticum), Alligator
Weed (Alternanthera philoxeroides), and Spatterdock (Nuphar
luteum) were added from a local stream (Fig. 2). The troughs
were placed in a pen enclosed with 2.5 cm × 1.3 cm coated wire
located in shaded ambient sunlight that received some direct
sunlight in the morning. The troughs were set up early May 2010
and allowed to accumulate both terrestrial and aquatic locally
Fig. 1. Outdoor enclosure.
Fig. 2. Aquatic plants used for egg deposition.
Fig. 3. Lateral view of the head of a Pseudobranchus axanthus larva.
Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens, Lake Monroe, Florida 32747, USA
Current address: Albuquerque BioPark, 903 10th Street Southwest,
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87102, USA; e-mail:
Herpetological Review 43(4), 2012
occurring invertebrates for two weeks. Pseudobranchus are not
sexually dimorphic, although female P. axanthus are generally
more robust than the males (P. E. Moler, pers. comm., 2010).
What were presumed to be two male and two female P. axanthus
were added to the outdoor enclosure on 16 May 2010. They were
fed frozen blood worms and brine shrimp as a supplement to
the established invertebrates once a week. The sirens were ex-
pected to feed primarily on the aquatic invertebrates that had
colonized the enclosure, predominately mosquito larvae (family
Culicidae). Water in the outdoor tank had a pH of 7.8–8.0 during
May and early June. By late June the pH had decreased to 7.2 ±
0.1. By December it had further decreased and remained at 6.5
± 0.2. Water changes were not routinely performed during this
experiment; however, rainwater was collected and added to the
tank when needed. Water temperature never exceeded 32.2°C
during the summer months and never went below 21.1°C in the
coolest winter months.
Little is known about the method of reproduction for P. a x -
anthus, but the oviposition period is thought to be November
through March (Petranka 1998). A similar species, P. striatus,
found from southern South Carolina, Georgia, and northern
Florida (Liu et al. 2004) has a documented oviposition period of
mid June through August in captivity (Pfaff and Vause 2002).
In the present study, single P. axanthus eggs (5) were first
found on low roots and decaying leaves in late December 2010,
within 18 cm of each other. The first larvae were observed on 4
February 2011. The jelly envelopes of the eggs could still be seen
attached to leaf detritus and roots after larvae hatched. Egg in-
cubation required 4–6 weeks. No mortality of hatchlings was
observed; however, assessing an accurate count of eggs and off-
spring proved to be difficult due to the dense leaf detritus used as
substrate. Twelve larvae were removed from the enclosure when
seen during February and March 2011 (Fig. 3). At this time, larvae
measured a mean total length of 2.73 cm (N = 12; 2.03–3.56 cm).
After measurement, larvae were placed back into the original en-
closure and fed the same diet rotation as described above. Adults
were removed from the enclosure to prevent cannibalism of the
larvae. After six months (September 2011) the tub was drained
and the larvae were measured again. All 12 original larvae had
more than doubled in size, measuring a mean total length of 6.41
cm (N = 12; 4.82–7.45 cm) and a mean mass of 0.31 g (N = 12;
0.22–0.48 g). In November 2011, all 12 larvae were thriving in the
outdoor enclosures in nearly identical conditions as the adults.
No further evidence of reproduction has been observed.
Acknowledgments.αI thank Nick Clark, Charles Becker, and Ariel
Horner with the CFZ&BG Department of Herpetology. I have much
gratitude towards Scott Pfaff (Riverbanks Zoo), and Paul E. Moler and
Bill Turner (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission) for
their guidance and critical comments on this note. I also thank Ken-
neth L. Krysko, Florida Museum of Natural History, for supplying the
specimens used during this study.
litERatuRE CitED
Conant, R., anD J. t. Collins. 1991. Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern
and Central North America. Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, Mas-
sachusetts. 450 pp.
kowalski, E. 2004. Husbandry and breeding of the narrow-striped
dwarf siren (Pseudobranchus axanthus). Magazine
liu, F. g. R., p. E. MolER, H. p. wHiDDEn, anD M. M. MiyaMoto. 2004. Al-
lozyme variation in the salamander genus Pseudobranchus: Phy-
logeographic and taxonomic significance. Copeia 2004:136–144.
MolER, p. E., anD J. kEzER. 1993. Karyology and systematics of the sala-
mander genus Pseudobranchus (Sirenidae). Copeia 1993:39–47.
nEtting, M. g., anD C. J. goin. 1942. Descriptions of two new sala-
manders from peninsular Florida. Ann. Carnegie Mus. 29:175–196.
pFaFF, C. s, anD k. b. vausE. 2002. Reproduction and growth of the
broad-striped dwarf siren Pseudobranchus s. striatus. Herpetol.
Rev. 33:42–44.
pEtRanka, J. w. 1998. Salamanders of the United States and Canada.
Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC. 587 pp.
Herpetological Review, 2012, 43(4), 601–604.
© 2012 by Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles
Observations on the Captive Maintenance and Reproduction of
the Cascade Glass Frog, Sachatamia albomaculata (Taylor, 1949)
The Cascade Glass Frog, Sachatamia albomaculata (Centro-
lenidae), has a wide distribution from north-central Honduras
to western Colombia and northwestern Ecuador (Savage 2002;
Solis et al. 2010). This species has been observed from sea level
to 1500 m in elevation where it is typically found along streams in
humid lowland and premontane forests with little or no altera-
tion, although it has also been found in more degraded habitats
(Kubicki 2007). The International Union for the Conservation
of Nature (IUCN) lists S. albomaculata as Least Concern with a
stable population trend (Solis et al. 2010).
Herein we report the methods utilized for successful main-
tenance and reproduction of Sachatamia albomaculata at the
Atlanta Botanical Garden (ABG) and Zoo Atlanta (ZA) in Atlanta,
Georgia, USA, and the Como Park Zoo and Conservatory (CPZC)
in St. Paul, Minnesota, USA. Of the 146 species of centrolenids
described to date (Frost 2011), 54 are listed by the IUCN as Vul-
nerable, Endangered, or Critically Endangered (IUCN Red List),
with a number of these recommended for ex situ management
programs by Amphibian Ark ( We
Department of Research and Conservation, Atlanta Botanical Garden,
1345 Piedmont Avenue, Atlanta, Georgia 30309, USA
Como Park Zoo and Conservatory
1225 Estabrook Drive, Saint Paul, Minnesota 55103, USA
El Valle Amphibian Conservation Center, El Valle de Antón, Panamá
* Corresponding author; e-mail:; Present address: Zoo
Atlanta, 800 Cherokee Avenue, Atlanta, Georgia, 30315, USA
Deceased 12 June 2009
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
A karyological survey has revealed that the salamander genus Pseudobranchus includes at least two chromosomally divergent species, one with N = 24 chromosomes and one with N = 32 chromosomes. In portions of the upper Florida peninsula, these two species occur in sympatry, but they typically occupy different habitats. However, they have been collected in syntopy or near syntopy at three localities. The N = 32 karyotype includes numerous telocentric and subtelocentric elements and was likely derived from the N = 24 karyotype by processes of centric fission and pericentric inversion. We see no indication of polyploidy in Pseudobranchus.
This study uses allele frequency and genotype array data from allozyme electrophoresis to investigate the phylogeographic and taxonomic affinities of groups within the salamander genus Pseudobranchus. Phylogenetic and population genetic analyses of the allozyme data confirm the validity of the two currently recognized species (Pseudobranchus axanthus from peninsular Florida and Pseudobranchus striatus from central and northern Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina). In concert with biogeographic data for other freshwater taxa, these analyses further support the recognition of western, southeastern, and northeastern phylogeographic groups within P. striatus. These species and phylogeographic groups offer new insights into the evolutionary history of this endemic genus in the southeastern United States and the taxonomic status of its nominal subspecies.
Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America
  • R Conant
  • J T Collins
Conant, R., anD J. t. Collins. 1991. Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America. Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, Massachusetts. 450 pp.
Karyology and systematics of the salamander genus Pseudobranchus (Sirenidae) Copeia 1993:39-47. nEtting, M. g., anD C. J. goin. 1942. Descriptions of two new salamanders from peninsular Florida
  • P E Moler
  • J Kezer
MolER, p. E., anD J. kEzER. 1993. Karyology and systematics of the salamander genus Pseudobranchus (Sirenidae). Copeia 1993:39-47. nEtting, M. g., anD C. J. goin. 1942. Descriptions of two new salamanders from peninsular Florida. Ann. Carnegie Mus. 29:175-196.
Husbandry and breeding of the narrow-striped dwarf siren (Pseudobranchus axanthus)
  • E Kowalski
kowalski, E. 2004. Husbandry and breeding of the narrow-striped dwarf siren (Pseudobranchus axanthus). Magazine 1:40-43.