The Dusky Salamander was once common in the southeastern United States. In recent years, UF researchers have documented population drops and even disappearances within its range, such as in Devil’s Millhopper sinkhole in Gainesville where they were once abundant.
I’ve been monitoring the status of amphibians in the southeastern United States for about 35-40 years. We started getting reports about disappearances of certain salamander species, especially the Southern Dusky Salamander, and I was concerned about that and I started looking at museum records and I found out that in the Florida Museum of Natural History there was an extensive collection of Southern Duskys from the 1950s to the 1970s. Now I live just next to the Devil’s Millhopper and one of the collection sites was the Devil’s Millhopper. So I started a 12-month survey of salamanders in the Devil’s Millhopper to see what the status of this particular species was.
Now unfortunately we did not find this animal at all and we now think it’s extinct from the Devil’s Millhopper. But specimens in the Florida Museum of Natural History allowed us to go back and determine that yes, the species was abundant there at one time, that all size classes were represented so we knew we had a very healthy population and we were able to pinpoint the time of disappearance as about the mid-1970s. We don’t know what caused the disappearance of this species, but we can confirm now that it is not there and indeed throughout much of the southeastern United States the Southern Dusky has disappeared for some unknown reason.
Courtesy Associate Professor, Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation
University of Florida
Southern Dusky Salamander (Desmognathus auriculatus)
From Alachua Co., Florida, mid-1900s