Alabama waterdog

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The Alabama waterdog (Necturus alabamensis, also known as the Alabama Water Dog, Black Warrior Waterdog, or West Sipsey Fork Waterdog) is an endangered species of salamander found only in the headwaters of the Black Warrior River, including Mulberry Fork, Blackwater Creek and Lost Creek in Walker County; North River and Yellow Creek in Tuscaloosa County; and Locust Fork and Blackburn Fork in Blount County.

The Alabama waterdog was first described as a species by Tulane University biologist Percy Viosca in 1937. The aquatic salamander reaches an adult length of six to nine inches. It's back is a smooth dark brown or nearly black with lighter stripes extending across the eyes and along the back. Its belly is unspotted white. It has four toes on each foot and its body and tail are flattened. Its red, bushy gills are permanently extended. It is related to Common mudpuppy and Gulf Coast waterdog.

The Alabama salamander, like the Northern dusky salamander and the Flattened musk turtle, prefers medium to large clear streams through clay soils above the fall line. To survive, the salamander needs access to backwaters with submurged beds of dead leaves where prey is abundant. It feeds on invertebrates such as crayfish, amphipods and insect larvae, as well as on small fish. On limited evidence, it seems that Alabama waterdogs are sexually active through the later half of the year and lay their eggs on the undersides of submerged objects.

The Alabama salamander is currently listed as an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) due to habitat fragmentation and steam pollution. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service registered the species as endangered and designated 400 miles of the Black Warrior watershed as "critical habitat" for the purposes of enforcing the Endangered Species Act in January 2018.


  • Viosca, Percy Jr (1937) "A tentative revision of the genus Necturus with descriptions of three new species from the southern Gulf drainage area." Copeia, Journal of the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists. pp. 120-138
  • Neill, W. T. (1963). "Notes on the Alabama waterdog, Necturus alabamensis Viosca." Herpetologica, No. 19, pp. 166-174
  • Bart, H. L. Jr., Bailey, Mark A., Ashton, R. E. Jr., and Moler, P. E. (1997) "Taxonomic and nomenclatural status of the Upper Black Warrior River Waterdog." Journal of Herpetology, No. 31, pp. 192-201
  • Petranka, James W. (1998) Salamanders of the United States and Canada. Washington D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press
  • Bailey, Mark A., and Moler, P. E. (2003) Necturus alabamensis Viosca. Black Warrior Waterdog. Catalogue of American Amphibians and Reptiles. Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles, 761.1-761.2
  • Geoffrey Hammerson, Mark Bailey (2004). "Necturus alabamensis". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature - accessed May 14, 2013
  • "Alabama waterdog" (August 9, 2016) Wikipedia - accessed October 5, 2016
  • Pillion, Dennis (January 2, 2018) "Black Warrior waterdog listed as endangered species" The Birmingham News

External links