Texas Blind Salamander



           Living underwater in a cave environment with no light has caused the Texas Blind Salamander to develop some seriously cool adaptations that allow it to survive and thrive in what we would think of as a very alien and forbidding environment.  Since there is no light that comes in at all, even if the salamanders had “real” eyes, they wouldn't be able to see.  As a result, over a long period of time, their eyes became weaker and weaker.  They still have eyes which appear beneath their skin as little black dots but they are non-functional, a remnant from a time when their ancestors lived aboveground.  They also lost most of the pigments that color their skin and as a result are a pale, white color (Edwards Aquifer Species 2003).

            To help them survive in their all water environment, they developed external gills so they would be able to spend all of their time underwater without having to return to the surface to get more oxygen.  These gills are the only part of the salamanders that aren't white (besides their black vestigial eyes) (Edwards Aquifer Species 2003)(Springer 2007).  They are blood red because their blood moves though the gills very close to the surface of their skin and this enables them to absorb dissolved oxygen from the water into the blood through the skin of the gills and transport it through the rest of their bodies.Texas Blind Salamander in a jar

            Their watery environment also caused their legs to become very thin.  Because the water helps to support the salamanders above the ground, they don't need as much strength in their legs to support themselves.  Their tails also developed into a wide, thin fin-like shape to help them propel themselves through the water (Texas Blind Salamander – National Wildlife Federation 2014).

            When the time comes for these creatures to go hunting you might think that they would have a hard time, not being able to see, but they have developed their own specialized hunting strategies which enable them to be the top predators of their environment.  They crawl along the bottom of the caves moving their heads back and forth “looking” for food.  When a creature is encountered, their mouths open up quickly and suck up the unfortunate organism. and they also have many, many sharp teeth to prevent their prey from escaping once they have captured it in their mouths (Edwards Aquifer Species 2003).

            Another problem that, as a blind species, the Texas Blind Salamander has had to overcome, is how they locate each other and tell males and females apart, which is very important for mating purposes.  The salamanders can read chemical cues in the water which help them to identify members of their own species and even whether they are male or female, which is really important for reproduction (Epp et al. 2010).

             Now we'll look at how this critter makes more of itself at the Reproduction page.