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We describe a specimen of Karsenia koreana, the only Asian plethodontid salamander, found in the herpetology collection of Ewha Woman’s University Natural History Museum (EWNHM), Republic of Korea. This specimen was collected in Daedun Mountain, North Jeolla Province on 8 May 1978 by EWNHM and subsequently misidentified as Hynobius leechii. Therefore, this particular specimen predates the formal description of the species by 27 years. We also remark on the specimen previously described by Nishikawa (2009) and an observation of K. koreana made in Baekun Mountain on 24 August 1999. These records altogether represent fuller historical data on the presence of this species in the country prior to formal species description.
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Current Herpetology 39(1): 75–79, February 2020
© 2020 by The Herpetological Society of Japan
doi 10.5358/hsj.39.75
A Specimen of Karsenia koreana (Caudata: Plethodontidae)
Misidentified as Hynobius leechii 27 Years before the Species’
Description and Additional Historical Record
Yucheol SHIN1,2, Yikweon JANG3, Taewoo KIM4, and Amaël BORZÉE1*
1College of Biology and the Environment, Nanjing Forestry University, Nanjing 210037,
PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA
2Department of Biological Sciences, College of Natural Science, Kangwon National
University, Chuncheon 24341, REPUBLIC OF KOREA
3Division of EcoScience and Department of Life Sciences, Ewha Womans University,
Seoul 03760, REPUBLIC OF KOREA
4Department of Animal Resources, National Institute of Biological Resources, Incheon
22689, REPUBLIC OF KOREA
Abstract: We describe a specimen of Karsenia koreana, the only Asian
plethodontid salamander, found in the herpetology collection of Ewha
Woman’s University Natural History Museum (EWNHM), Republic of Korea.
This specimen was collected in Daedun Mountain, North Jeolla Province on 8
May 1978 and subsequently misidentified as Hynobius leechii. Therefore, the
collection of this particular specimen predates the formal description of the
species by 27 years. We also remark on the specimen previously described by
Nishikawa (2009) and an observation of K. koreana made in Baekun
Mountain on 24 August 1999. These records altogether represent fuller
historical data on records of this species prior to its formal description.
Key words: Karsenia koreana; Korean crevice salamander; Natural History
Museum; Plethodontidae; Republic of Korea
Introduction
The Korean crevice salamander (Karsenia
koreana) is the only known plethodontid sala‐
mander described in Asia and its relationship
with other plethodontids is supported by
morphological and genetic evidences (Min et
al., 2005). Considering that this species is
locally abundant, it is suspected that K.
* Corresponding author.
E‐mail address: amaelborzee@gmail.com
koreana specimens were collected prior to its
formal description but went unnoticed or
misidentified as belonging to other species of
salamanders (Nishikawa, 2009).
While examining the collection of salaman‐
der specimens at Ewha Womans University
Natural History Museum (EWNHM; Sabaj,
2016), we found a specimen labelled Hyno‐
bius leechiicollected from Daedun Moun‐
tain, North Jeolla Province, Republic of
Korea on 8 May 1978. In this study, we
morphometrically examined the above speci‐
men to identify it as another historical speci‐
men of Karsenia koreana and discussed the
importance of specimen curation and web‐
based databasing in investigating the species’
distribution.
Materials and Methods
We examined a specimen labelled “Hyno‐
bius leechiicollected from Daedun Moun‐
tain, North Jeolla Province, Republic of
Korea on 8 May 1978 by the EWNHM
(voucher EWNHM‐ANIMAL 6439; Fig. 1).
To identify the species, we measured the
following morphometric characters, following
the definitions used by Tominaga et al. (2005)
and Poyarkov et al. (2012): SVL (snout‐vent
length): from tip of snout to anterior edge of
cloaca; TAL (tail length): from the tip of tail
to the anterior edge of vent; TOL (total
length): sum of SVL and TAL; HL (head
length): from tip of snout to the gular fold;
HW (head width): measured at the widest
part of the head anterior to parotid gland;
MXTAH (maximum tail height): measured as
perpendicular height at highest part of tail.
CGN (costal grooves number): number of
costal grooves between the fore‐ and
hindlimbs. Furthermore, we observed the
shapes of tail, limbs, and digits.
Results
Upon closer examination, the specimen
(EWNHM‐ANIMAL 6439) did not belong to
Hynobius leechii based on body shape and
patterns (Fig. 2). The TOL of this specimen
was 93.8 mm, SVL was 47.2 mm, TAL was
46.6 mm, HW was 7.1 mm, HL was 13.6 mm,
MXTAH was 2.6 mm, and CGN was 12 on
both sides of the body. The tail tip was pointy
with a round cross section in contrast to the
laterally compressed oar‐shaped tails of hyno‐
biid salamanders of Korea. Other morpholog‐
ical characteristics identify this specimen as K.
koreana: nasolabial grooves present, limbs
and digits short, webbings between digits
weakly developed, and broad stripe along the
dorsal side of body (Fig. 2A, B, and C). We
further identified this specimen as K. koreana
based on comparisons with a live individual
photographed in Jangtae Mountain on 4 May
2019 (Fig. 2E).
Fig. 1. Map showing Karsenia koreana datapoints of this study and that reported by Nishikawa (2009).
Daedun Mountain is the location where the specimen in Ewha Womans University Natural History
Museum was collected in 1978. Gyeryong Mountain is the location reported by Nishikawa (2009). Baekun
Mountain represents the southernmost distribution record for the species. An individual observed in
Jangtae Mountain on May 2019 was used for visual comparison against other records reported herein. Map
generated using Google Earth Pro (Google Inc., California, USA), with data credits to SIO, NOAA, U.S.
Navy, NGA, GEBCC. Image Landsat/Copernicus.
76 Current Herpetol. 39(1) 2020
Although the precise GPS coordinates of
the collection site for the mis‐labelled speci‐
men presented here is unknown, it is labelled
as originating from the area where the para‐
type specimens of K. koreana were collected
(MVZ 246033, MVZ 247157; Min et al.,
2005). Furthermore, this region is well within
the known range of the species (Borzée et al.,
2019a; GBIF.org, 2019).
Discussion
Another Karsenia koreana specimen
collected before the description of the species
has been reported by Nishikawa (2009). This
specimen was collected in 1971 and is a
female with a damaged tail, housed in the
collection of the Institute of Amphibian Biol‐
ogy, Hiroshima University, Japan. To date,
Fig. 2. Comparisons between the specimens captured or photographed prior to the formal description
of Karsenia koreana and a live individual observed in 2019. (A, with label) Dorsal view of a specimen of
Karsenia koreana collected on 8 May 1978 in Daedun Mountain, North Jeolla Province, Republic of
Korea (EWNHM‐ANIMAL 6439). Ruler scale is in centimeters. (B and C) Closeup of EWNHM‐ANIMAL
6439. Note the characteristic short digits and broad dorsal stripe of Karsenia. (D) An individual observed
in Baekun Mountain, Gwangwang, South Jeolla Province on 24 August 1999. (E) Live individual
photographed in Jangtae Mountain, on 4 May 2019.
SHIN ET AL.—OLD SPECIMEN OF ASIAN PLETHODONTID SALAMANDER 77
the specimen reported by Nishikawa (2009) is
the oldest known specimen of K. koreana and
was collected 34 years before the description
of the species. However, the label for the
specimen in the collection of Hiroshima
University only includes information on
collection date and information on collection
site is lacking, although it was likely collected
from Gyeryong Mountain (Nishikawa, 2009).
The specimen from the EWNHM predates
the species’ description by 27 years, and is
seven years younger than the one from
Hiroshima University. Nevertheless, the
EWNHM specimen is intact and in good
condition, with complete information on iden‐
tification, collection date and location. This
specimen further show that more than one K.
koreana was collected long before its formal
description but went unnoticed by researchers.
Additionally, an observation on iNaturalist
on 24 August 1999 (iNaturalist.org, 2019)
was identified as K. koreana. This particular
individual was observed in Baekun Mountain
in Gwangyang, South Jeolla Province in
the Republic of Korea (35.060357°N, 127.
594616°E; WGS 84). So far, this observation
is the southernmost distribution record of K.
koreana.
Collectively, these records provide valuable
historical data on the presence of this species
prior to its formal description. Furthermore,
searching herpetology collections of universi‐
ties and research institutions in Korea and
adjacent countries will likely turn up more
historical specimens of this species. Such
overlooked specimens may provide valuable
insights into natural history and distribution
of the species. However, old and small collec‐
tions that receive little attention from
researchers are prone to become poorly main‐
tained and degraded. For instance, Nishikawa
(2009) noted that many historical specimens
curated in Japanese institutions are in bad
condition. The situation is similar in the
Republic of Korea, where natural history
collections in universities are generally poorly
curated. These include missing or degraded
labels and degraded or damaged specimens.
Our finding of this specimen add further
support to the importance of properly main‐
taining historical collections for future
research.
According to the IUCN, Karsenia koreana
is currently listed as Least Concern (LC),
although its conservation status may need to
be updated because of decreasing population
sizes (IUCN, 2019). Moreover, the species is
likely to experience range shifts in the future
due to climate change (Borzée et al., 2019a).
However, the exact range of the species is still
unknown and we recommend the use of citi‐
zen science, such as done for Hynobius sp.
(Borzée et al., 2019b), and incorporating
historical data from museums to acquire
further information on its distribution. Defin‐
ing the range of K. koreana will be beneficial
for research and conservation of the species in
the future.
Acknowledgments
This work was supported by the research
grant (#2017R1A2B2003579) from the
National Research Foundation of Korea to
YJ. We thank Jaewon Ryu and the staffs of
the EWNHM for giving us the opportunity
and workspace to examine the specimens.
Also, we thank two anonymous reviewers and
the editor of the journal for their constructive
criticisms.
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SHIN ET AL.—OLD SPECIMEN OF ASIAN PLETHODONTID SALAMANDER 79
... Rhacophorus sp. Citation: Shin et al. (2020c). Remarks: this specimen was originally labelled as "Hynobius leechii". ...
... Remarks: this specimen was originally labelled as "Hynobius leechii". This particular specimen predates the formal description of the species by 27 years (Min et al. 2005;Shin et al. 2020c). ...
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GBIF.org. 2019. GBIF Occurrence, https://doi. org/10.15468/dl.mlnmny. (accessed 7 September 2019) iNaturalist.org. 2019. Karsenia koreana. http:// www.inaturalist.org/observations/9264386 (accessed 8 August 2019)
Standard symbolic codes for institutional resource collections in herpetology and ichthyology: An Online Reference, version 6.5
  • M H Sabaj
Sabaj, M. H. 2016. Standard symbolic codes for institutional resource collections in herpetology and ichthyology: An Online Reference, version 6.5. American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists. https://asih.org/standardsymbolic-codes (accessed 7 September 2019)