Category — Waterdog
Waterdogs in Winter
While many species become less active as temperatures drop in wintertime, the aquatic salamanders known as waterdogs are on the move. Waterdog activity is reverse to those of the large predatory fish to which they coexist. More importantly, primary prey items for waterdogs (aquatic insects) are restricted to leaf pack and hence accessible for snacking at this time of year.
We plan our waterdog survey trips to coincide with the species natural biology. Therefore, we have maximum opportunity to capture and collect data from adult individuals. Over the past three years, we have surveyed for the Black Warrior Waterdog in NW Alabama during late January. However, prior to our trip this year, heavy rain moved into the projected survey sites and we had to change our plans. We still needed to survey for waterdogs in 3 eastern Alabama drainages: Coosa, Alabama and Tallapoosa. Unfortunately, the water had not lowered in these drainages, which made our chances of finding any waterdogs extremely difficult. In scouting out spots to search for waterdogs and by talking to local residents about the area, we feel prepared to attempt another trip in the near future when water levels are lower.
The second part of our trip took us to the state of Georgia and two river drainages: Flint and Ochlocknee. While we didn’t have much luck at the cited locality in the Flint Drainage, we headed down the road to where a tributary of the Flint crossed. The water was a few feet higher than normal. The good news was there were large leaf packs along the bank. About 2 minutes into the dip-netting process we started finding waterdogs! After a lot of driving in the previous days, it was a relief to make progress. We also checked multiple sites in the Ochlocknee River Drainage and despite working until the sun set, we didn’t find any more waterdogs. However, the creeks we went to looked promising. This part of Georgia had not yet received much rain. The good news is we can pick this drainage up in Florida when we go later in the year.
February 20, 2012 No Comments
On December 13, 2011, we conducted the Black Warrior Waterdog survey. The river was packed with leaves, which is a good sign. In the first leaf pack we netted there was a small larval waterdog. That was good news! This means that from our surveys last year, the adults in this population are successfully breeding. We found a few other salamanders that are sympatric with N. alabamensis; the Northern Red Salamander (Pseudotriton ruber ruber), Spring Salamander (Gyrinophilus sp.), and Two-lined Salamanders (Eurycea cirrigera).
We were almost a third of the way upstream and we were no longer finding waterdogs. The season seemed a little behind what we observed last year. It was warmer outside, even though the water temperature was still pretty cold. And, the leaf packs were still fresh – the leaves weren’t decomposed yet. In the past, we’ve noticed the waterdogs like to be near the shore line and in leaf packs that are more decomposed. We continued to push further upstream; farther than we’ve ever found waterdogs before.
Surprisingly we found two larvae. We found five total.
January 17, 2012 No Comments
On December 12, 2011, Erik Keyster, John Staubach, and I left the Cincinnati Zoo at 11:00 am and headed to Alabama for another Black Warrior Waterdog survey. Our first stop was East Central Alabama and the Cahaba River Drainage.
Upon arrival, we noticed that the wooden bridge above the creek smelled like creosote. We were afraid that if there was a waterdog population in the creek, the creosote might have negatively impacted it. We saw a few leaf piles near the banks of the creek and we began dip netting. John found the first larvae! We continued to dip-net and eventually found a total of 6 waterdogs.
January 17, 2012 No Comments