The black warrior waterdog (Necturus alabamensis) is considered one of the most endangered salamander species in North America due to its low numbers, pronounced seasonality and small geographic range in the Black Warrior River Basin of Alabama. The cool, flowing water preferred by this large, gilled aquatic salamander has become exceedingly rare as the biological integrity of native water sources continues to decline in extent and quality. Researchers from the Zoo’s Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW) are generating critical in situ population estimates and establishing an ex situ breeding program as deemed essential to saving black warrior waterdogs.
Expanding upon a pilot investigation, CREW scientists and Zoo amphibian staff are continuing a multi-year mark recapture study of black warrior waterdogs in the wild. In addition, they are assessing if the infectious fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, that has been responsible for decimating amphibian populations worldwide is present in black warrior waterdog populations. To help support the conservation of black warrior waterdogs and its genetic diversity, a captive assurance population has been initiated at the CREW. Through a concerted research effort with a model species, gulf coast waterdogs (Necturus beyeri), researchers are attempting to develop novel, captive breeding techniques for maximizing the probability of long-term species survival.
In March 2010, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) asked CREW scientists to contribute an article on their black warrior waterdog research to the AZA CONNECT magazine. To read the article, click here.