The Texas blind salamander: Tales of an irreplaceable water snob — The Environmental Issue

Texas blind salamander (Eurycea rathbuni)

The Environmental Issue: Water Reallocation and Pollution.


The Texas blind salamander was added to the USFWS Endangered Species List back in 1967 due to threats of habitat destruction. The species relies on a healthy output of clean freshwater flowing from the Edward Aquifer into the caverns for survival. Unfortunately, this rare salamander lives in the heart of the Edwards Plateau, where all the drainage from the agriculturally and residentially developed region flows into via sinkholes in the ground. In the area, thousands of wells are drilled into the aquifer to support the agriculture and the nearly 2 million people that live there. The salamander is threatened by lowering cave water levels as well as chemicals, such as pesticides, herbicides, and oils, entering the water and polluting it. Alas, most of the state of Texas is on private land and the task of protecting an endangered species, such as this one, poses many challenges in terms of water regulation. Today, it is believed that the salamander’s accessible area inside the caves has likely decreased from falling groundwater levels due to increased water reallocation for residential and commercial development since the 1960s, although it is hard to say since it is unknown how many Texas blind salamanders exist. Additionally, over collecting of the salamanders for research in the past may have also reduced the populations.

Water reallocation for agricultural purposes

Recently, cave ecologists and wildlife managers have been marking individuals with an ink that glows in black light in order to gain a better understanding of how many salamanders are living in the Edwards Aquifer caves. They also are seeking out information on their general health and life history traits. Additionally, the Texas blind salamanders are currently bred in captivity by the USFWS and at the Dallas Aquarium at Fair Park, Cincinnati Zoo, Aquarena Centre (San Marcos), and San Marcos National Fish Hatchery and Technology Centre because of the high extinction risk they face.


Back in 2006, the Edwards Aquifer Recovery Implementation Program (EARIP) was created in order to discuss the problems and possible solutions to the water needs of all of those who live in the region. They started by analyzing the needs of the area’s increasing population, the listed species in area, and the potential effects of a drought as severe as the one that occurred back in the 1950s. Now they are working to put limits on water reallocation to prevent future devastation of the area, the people, and the wildlife. Furthermore, Texas Parks and Wildlife and the USFWS are working to call on people to conserve water in any way they can. Some of these practices include shortening shower time, turning off water when you don’t need it (i.e. when washing your face or brushing your teeth), and choosing native drought-tolerant plants for your yard. Whether you live in desert region or not, it is important for everyone to consider reducing their use of the planets most finite resource, water. If you would like more tips on how to reduce your water use, try out the tips for the Edwards Plateau region: Edwards Aquifer Species Management.


If you would like to check out more animals on the Endangered Species List on your own, please visit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s list of Threaten/Endangered Species in the U.S. and Foreign Countries.



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Edwards Aquifer Authority. Drop Inside The Edwards Aquifer, Edwards Aquifer Authority, [Online] Jul 2011 (accessed Mar 6, 2017).  

Hammerson, G.; Chippindale, P. Eurycea rathbuni. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, [Online] 2004 (accessed Mar 6, 2017).

Epp, K J.; Gonzales, J.; Gabor, C. R. The role of water-borne chemical cues in mediating social interactions of the Texas blind salamander, Eurycea rathbuni. Amphibia-Reptilia. [Online] 2010, 31, 294-298 DOI: (accessed Mar 6, 2017)

National Wildlife Federation. Texas Blind Salamander. National Wildlife Federation, [Online] 2017 (accessed Mar 6, 2017).

Springer, C. The Texas blind salamander. Endangered Species Bulletin, Expanded Academic ASAP. 2007, 40 (accessed Mar 6, 2017).

Texas Parks and Wildlife. Management Guidelines for Endangered and Threatened Species of the Edwards Aquifer, Texas Parks and Wildlife, [Online] 2017 (accessed Mar 12, 2017).  

Texas Parks and Wildlife. Texas Blind Salamander (Eurycea rathbuni), Texas Parks and Wildlife, [Online] 2017 (accessed Mar 6, 2017).  

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Image 4: Boyd, J. Endangered Species of Texas. (accessed Mar 13, 2017).   

Image 5: Lawton, G. Meet the Weird Amphibian That Rules the Underworld. (accessed Mar 13, 2017).



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