Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Michigan Mudpuppies

With the exception of the Marbled Salamander & Western Lesser Siren; both of which are likely extirpated in Michigan, there was only one species of salamander that I had not seen in the state, the Mudpuppy. Necturus are commonly known as "water dogs" throughout their range due to the myth that they bark, which is far from the truth. They are large salamanders that remain aquatic throughout their entire life, keeping their external gills that most salamander lose over time at they become adults, this makes the Mudpuppy a more primitive salamander in the evolutionary tree. They occur in lakes, rivers, and creeks throughout their range, but prefer very cool water with high oxygen levels. Farther south in their range, streams of higher elevation provide that cold oxygen rich water, but in Michigan these types of streams are not common. So where do they live in Michigan? The answer is in deep water of lakes and rivers, where they occasionally wander in to shallow water to lay eggs and feed. This makes targeting Mudpuppies here a daunting task and one I've avoided for too long. A few weeks back, Jason Folt and I were fortunate enough to join a few researchers who are doing Mudpuppy research in southeast Michigan. After making acquaintances, we loaded up and headed out to our first field site.


We waded into the forty degree water and began flipping rock after rock in several feet of water, waited for the silt to clear, and then look for any movement. We were looking for young mudpuppies taking shelter in the shallow areas of water, while the big adults tend to spend their time in much deeper water. Before long, Jason called out that he had got one, a first for him in Michigan and a lifer for me.

 Mudpuppy - Necturus maculosus

Over the next few hours, we all flipped at netted additional specimens at a few different sites. The two researchers measured, weighed, and took other field data on all the individuals we found. They are trying to assess the health of the Mudpuppy population in southeast Michigan, as well as the species' habitat utilization.


We ended up seeing a total of six individuals, and were able to capture five of them. We didn't see any large adults, but I hope that return trips with the researchers this summer will produce some of the bigger ones in the river system. A great way to spend a beautiful April day.

Mudpuppy - Necturus maculosus

4 comments:

  1. Great pictures Nick, were any of the sites you visited accessible to the public? I live in Southeast MI and I would love to see a Mudpuppy.

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  2. Thanks for the comment James, the sites we visited are indeed accessible to the public.

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  3. Hey Nick - I run the blog Michigan in Pictures and would love to blog one of your mudpuppy photos. I always give full credit and copious links - let me know at farlane@gmail.com!
    http://michpics.wordpress.com/

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  4. Nick, could you tell me where you were when you caught them?

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