Conservation genetics of urban stream salamanders

Northern dusky salamander, Desmognathus fuscus. Photo by Ellen Pehek

In collaboration with Dr. Ellen Pehek, Principal Ecologist of the NYC Parks Department, we are examining the population and “streamscape genetics” of two native amphibians, the northern dusky (Desmognathus fuscus) and northern two-lined (Eurycea bislineata) salamanders.  Dusky salamanders have experienced enigmatic declines throughout the region, and occur in isolated urban seepage areas in northern Manhattan and Staten Island.

Northern two-lined salamander, Eurycea bislineata, at the NY Botanic Garden. Photo by Ellen Pehek

Preliminary analysis of five populations show that dusky salamanders exhibit significant differentiation and a very substantial loss of genetic diversity in NYC.  We have sampled two-lined salamanders from six populations in the Bronx, Queens, Staten Island, and New Jersey, and are planning sampling from several more urban sites.  In collaboration with Dr. George Amato at AMNH, we will use population genomic approaches to 1) examine the population structure of this species in the NYC metropolitan area, and 2) assess the influence of historical stream impoundments and overland barriers on gene flow in a Staten Island stream network.  These impoundments range from 400 to 10 years old, and their influence on gene flow will be assessed using large SNP (single nucleotide polymorphism) datasets for multiple individuals from multiple locations.

Dusky salamander mother guarding larvae in Manhattan. Photo by Ellen Pehek