NANFA-L-- FW: Hellbenders in decline

Subject: NANFA-L-- FW: Hellbenders in decline
From: Bruce Stallsmith (
Date: Fri Nov 12 2004 - 08:26:00 CST

Everyone's favorite giant aquatic salamander is having serious population
declines in the MO/AR end of its range. I've read the literature for several
years, so unfortunately it's not a surprise.

--Bruce Stallsmith
some hellbenders around the Tennessee
Huntsville, AL, US of A

The Center for North American Herpetology
Lawrence, Kansas
12 November 2004

Scientists Try To Save Hellbender, Largest Salamander In North America

8 November 2004 ENN

St. Louis, Missouri: The population of North America's largest salamander is
plummeting in Missouri and Arkansas, and scientists from five states met to
consider how to prevent the creature's disappearance.

About 35 members of the Hellbender Working Group met for meetings-in-the St.
Louis Zoo last week to review research and plans for helping prevent the
extinction of the 2-foot-long salamander, which lives in a few cold,
Ozark streams.

Stanley Trauth, a zoology professor-in-Arkansas State University, showed
pictures of Hellbenders with open sores, tumors and missing limbs and eyes.
said that nine out of 10 animals found in the Spring River this year had
abnormalities. "I'm-in-a loss, folks," Trauth said. "We just don't have a
explanation for what's causing this."

Max Nickerson of the University of Florida, who has worked with Hellbenders
three decades, said his early research did not find nearly as many
He called the new results baffling.

Researchers say it was easy to find 100 Hellbenders in a day in the 1970s
1980s; now they are lucky to find a few.

Biologists believe that many factors may have hurt the Hellbender, including
logging, gravel mining, sewage plant effluent, agricultural runoff,
trout, disturbance from boaters, poaching, deliberate killing and scientific
collection. One researcher found evidence that Hellbenders fare poorly in
streams with lots of plants growing out of the water and slowing down the
current. Others are looking-in-water quality issues, including the possible
influence of endocrine-disrupting chemicals on Hellbender reproduction.

Another research project involves the effect of trout, which are not native
Missouri. Alicia Mathis, a behavioral ecology professor-in-Southwestern
State University in Springfield, found that young Missouri Hellbenders do
recognize trout as a predator. Mathis is teaching some of the 150 young
Hellbenders being reared in tanks-in-the Zoo to freeze when they smell trout
the water. If the project works, the schooled youngsters could be released
the wild with less chance of being eaten. "It could be a shot in the arm,
for a
population that really needs a shot in the arm," she said.

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: Fri Dec 31 2004 - 12:42:47 CST