Three new species of black-bellied salamander found in southern Appalachian Mountains.
The discovery sheds light on "cryptic" species, which are described as those lacking obvious differences separating evolutionarily distinct populations.
According to the researchers, black-bellied salamanders were known as a single species for more than 100 years, but have subtle differences between them.
Black-bellied salamanders have been studied for over 100 years.
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.
The researchers began by observing Desmognathus quadramaculatus, a species of salamander that has been poorly characterized throughout its history
They noticed that certain morphological, genetic and geographic aspects differed among the specimens, including variation in size, shape and color pattern.
The researchers discovered five separate species, three of which are new to researchers. The new species are now known as D. gvnigeusgwotli, D. kanawha, and D. mavrokoilius.
Future studies should offer insights into the evolutionary history, geographic, ecological interactions, of new black-bellied salamanders.