ARMI scientists Blake Hossack (NOROCK), Brent Sigafus (SBSC) and Erin Muths (FORT), and ARMI post doc Thierry Chambert traveled to Sonora, Mexico, to survey for Sonoran Tiger Salamanders in May 2016
By: Muths E; Hossack B; Sigafus B; June 23, 2016
ARMI scientists Blake Hossack (NOROCK), Brent Sigafus (SBSC) and Erin Muths (FORT), and ARMI post doc Thierry Chambert traveled to Sonora, Mexico, to survey for Sonoran Tiger Salamanders in May. Reports existed of the presence of this salamander in Sonora, but the spatial extent of its range is unknown. The Sonoran Tiger Salamander is federally endangered in the US and is found only in the San Rafael Valley in southern Arizona. The identification of additional populations in nearby Sonora has implications for multiple conservation concerns including population biology, genetics, and disease. Data collected about its presence and abundance across the border will contribute to the identification of management objectives and subsequent implementation of conservation actions. The surveys were a collaborative effort with logistical support from Naturalia (www.naturalia.org.mx/) that included the expertise of Naturalia employees Daniel Toyos and Ramon Babuca. The trip also benefitted from assistance from Guillermo Molina (Instituto Tecnológico Superior De Cananea), Julio Lemos Espinal (UNAM), and students David Hurtado and Aline Estrella. Jim Rorabaugh contributed much to the trip by sharing knowledge of the Sonoran system gained from his previous expeditions focused on salamanders in Mexico. The effort was based at Rancho Los Fresnos, a Naturalia property located north of the town of Cananea and adjacent to the US–Mexico border. The group sampled a variety of sites on Rancho Los Fresnos, as well as surrounding ranches and locations to the south of Cananea. Tiger salamanders reside primarily in man-made or modified earthen stock tanks. These habitats were seined for salamanders and water samples were collected to test for environmental DNA (eDNA) from salamanders, invasive American bullfrogs, federally-threatened (USA) Chiricahua leopard frogs, and pathogens that cause amphibian diseases. Buccal swabs were collected from captured salamanders for genetic analyses (there is uncertainty in determining the difference among closely related salamanders in the field); and skin swabs were collected to test for disease (both Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans and B. dendrobatidis). This ongoing project has already produced one publication (Hossack et al. 2016. Notes on the Distribution of Tiger Salamanders (Presumed Ambystoma mavortium stebbinsi) in Sonora, Mexico. Herpetological Review 47(2): 177-180), and another is in preparation (Hossack et al. Informing recovery of an imperiled, endemic salamander: coupled dynamics and test of drought-mediated coexistence with invasive predators).