New salamander stays young at heart

Species was overlooked because of youthful looks

FOREVER YOUNG  The newly described salamander species Eurycea subfluvicola (bottom) keeps some of the physical characteristics of young salamanders even as an adult. Its youthful looks make it hard to distinguish from juveniles of a related salamander species, E. multiplicata (top).

Courtesy of Michael Steffen

Like a 35-year-old man living in his parents’ basement, a recently discovered salamander species never leaves its childhood home. Many salamanders start out life in the water, then switch to land-based living as they mature. But the newly named Eurycea subfluvicola, found dwelling in streams in Lake Catherine State Park in Arkansas, enjoys the aquatic life even as an adult. It also retains some physical features of young salamanders, like feathery external gills. Called paedomorphosis, this developmental phenomenon can keep new species hidden in plain sight: E. subfluvicola escaped notice because it looks like the juvenile form of a related salamander species, researchers at the University of Tulsa in Oklahoma report April 11 in Zootaxa.

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