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species of salamanders are listed as either state threatened
or state endangered
in Illinois as of 2001. Three of these species are at the edge of their
geographical range and have never been very widespread in Illinois. The
other two species have been greatly affected by habitat degradation and
habitat loss. The endangered silvery salamander (Ambystoma platineum)
is peculiar. It is a triploid,
all-female, pond-breeding species known in Illinois from only one natural
population. Sperm are needed only to prompt the development of the eggs.
In Illinois, the sperm are obtained from the smallmouth salamander (Ambystoma
texanum). The endangered dusky salamander (Desmognathus fuscus)
and the threatened Jefferson salamander (Ambystoma jeffersonianum)
occur in only two counties each in Illinois and are at the western edges
of their ranges. The dusky salamander inhabits small spring-fed streams
and stream banks while the Jefferson salamander is a woodland species
that migrates to small temporary or fish-free ponds to breed in the spring.
The endangered hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis), an aquatic
species dependent on large, rocky streams, has been nearly extirpated
by stream siltation.
The threatened four-toed salamander (Hemidactylium scutatum) once
occurred nearly statewide but now is known from only eleven scattered
counties where bits of suitable habitat remain.
primary conservation concerns for Illinois salamanders are habitat degradation,
and habitat loss. Many populations have been eliminated, reduced, or separated
through loss of habitat. Draining wetlands, channelizing streams, removing
temporary woodland ponds and sloughs, and clearing forests have all contributed
to the decline of salamander populations in Illinois. Individuals of three
Illinois species (hellbender; lesser siren, Siren intermedia; mudpuppy,
Necturus maculosus) are completely aquatic, and three-fourths of
the remaining species have a gilled, aquatic, larval stage. These species
require high-quality waters to live in at some point in their life cycles.
state-endangered dusky salamander (Desmognathus fuscus) occurs
in only two Illinois counties, where it lives along spring-fed headwater
streams. Note the distinctive white line that extends from its eye to
its lower jaw.
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