Researchers from George Washington University have discovered three new species of black-bellied salamander in the southern Appalachian Mountains. The new species are from black-bellied salamanders (Desmognathus quadramaculatus) that were once thought to be a single species.
The researchers say the black-bellied salamander was known as a single species for more than 100 years. These three new species have genetic differences that set them apart from Desmognathus quadramaculatus, but are cryptic in they lack differences that separate “evolutionarily distinct populations.”
“Black-bellied salamanders have been commonly studied for over 100 years,” R. Alexander Pyron, Robert F. Griggs associate professor of biology at the George Washington University said in a statement released to the media.
“In 2002, a cryptic dwarf species was discovered, and, in 2005, DNA evidence began to suggest there were still more. It wasn’t until our NSF-funded research in 2020 that we were able to sequence genome-scale data to figure out there were actually five similar-looking species.”