January 2017 Salamander of the Month

Salamander of the Month – the Olm (Proteus anguinus)

olm2                                                                             © 2015 Dr. Joachim Nerz

The olm is a cave specialized salamander that lives all of its life in subterranean waters in a few areas of eastern Europe. Most individuals are unpigmented and the eyes are poorly developed, typically being covered by skin. Not surprisingly, they do not use their visual sense much but chemo-reception, mechano-reception and electro-reception are all well developed. The olm also exhibits neoteny, that is, it retains many larval features throughout its life (gills, lateral line neuromasts, etc.) and there is no real metamorphosis (AmphibiaWeb, 2014).

A captive colony of olms in France that has been studied for over 50 years has revealed an extremely long life span. The average adult in this population is approximately 68 years old and the maximum life span has been estimated at over 100 years, making the olm the amphibian with the longest known lifespan. Sexual maturity is not obtained until approximately 15 years (similar to humans) and olms only reproduce once every decade or so thereafter (Voituron et al. 2010).

Given its restricted geographic distribution and specialized habitat, olms can be threatened by water pollution if underground waters become contaminated. Slovenia has honored this special salamander by its placement on one of its coins.


Works Cited

AmphibiaWeb 2014 Proteus anguinus: Olm <http://amphibiaweb.org/species/4229> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed Dec 22, 2016.

Voituron, Y., de Fraipont, M., Issartel, J., Guillaume, O., and Clobert, J. (2010). ”Extreme lifespan of the human fish (Proteus anguinus): a challenge for ageing mechanisms .” Biology Letters, Published online before print July 21, 2010, doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2010.0539.

Salamander Squad Wraps Up for the Year

Earlier in November, our last Salamander Squad outing nabbed four different species (red-backed, ravine, slimy and northern two-lined salamanders) at Wooster Memorial Park. We had three outings this fall and overall a couple dozen people came out to help us find these interesting critters. If you missed us this year, we’ll be going out again in spring 2017!


More good times in the jungle

In May of this year, I took three College of Wooster undergraduates to the Osa Peninsula of Costa Rica to study frogs, snakes and lizards. April Arquilla (’17) did a field experiment on coral snake mimicry, Ben Grunwald (’17) studied lizards diversity in primary and secondary rainforests and Linnea Johnson (’17) studied glass frog diversity in primary and secondary rainforests. When not working with these fabulous students, I continued my studies of ecological niche use and parental care in glass frogs. We ate great food, made great friends, saw a lot of incredible wildlife and worked hard in the jungle to get our data. Hope to go down again next summer!

Inaugural Salamander Squad Outing

The very first group of intrepid salamander biologists went out to Wooster Memorial Park on Saturday, September 17th. It rained much of the early morning hours but then let up as we went out into the woods. The wet weather definitely helped bring out our quarry. Squad members young and old caught and marveled at slimy, red-backed and two-lined salamanders as well as a super cute little ring neck snake.

If you missed it, our next outing is Saturday October 8th, 2016 from 9-noon. Please contact me (rlehtinen@wooster.edu) if you’d like to reserve a spot!