In the Fullness of Time

This blog will focus on my fall sabbatical, and the ecology, evolution, and conservation of endangered and rare species in the Death Valley / Owens Valley area of California. Two taxa that I am particularly interested in are the Inyo Mountain salamander, and desert pupfish in the genus Cyprinodon. I plan on exploring not only the science of these species (and others), but also their beauty.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Slender Salamanders

It’s been difficult to find slender salamanders. I searched five documented localities in the Sierra Nevada Mountains for Batrachoseps robustus, the sister taxon (perhaps) to the Inyo Mountains slender salamander (B. campi), and three known sites for B. campi. I’ve driven too many miles, walked some more, soaked my “Rite in the Sweat” field notebook, and flipped a lot of rocks, but only managed to find salamanders at one site in the Inyo Mountains. Still, it was exciting to see slender salamanders again, and to consider their ability to hang on in such an inhospitable environment. There are 13 known,  disjunct populations of Inyo Mountains slender salamanders, and genetic data suggest that they have been isolated from one another for much longer than since the end of the last glacial advances – perhaps for as long as 5-10 million years. They are survivors, persisting in the face of drought, flash floods, the uplift and erosion of mountains, and time - for time, in an evolutionary sense, leads both to adaptation, and to extinction. As Lord Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita, "I am become Time, the destroyer of worlds." Yet the Inyo Mountains slender salamanders have managed to resist time – and for me there is comfort in having held these tiny creatures in my hand, and knowing that they live on, in the face of so much adversity.
Inyo Mountains Slender salamander

Slender salamander habitat, Inyo Mountains

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