Illinois scientists search for threatened mudpuppies in lakes

By on March 31, 2015

Graduate Student, Alicia Beattie, holding a threatened mudpuppie. (Courtesy Southern Illinois University Carbondale)


Mudpuppies, or water-dwelling salamanders, are a threatened species in Illinois, according to a release from Southern Illinois University. Because of that, scientists at the university have partnered with Shedd Aquarium to study how they live in lakes.

“There’s been a fair amount of research on populations that live in streams and rivers. We’re looking at populations that live in lakes in the Great Lakes area,” said Matt Whiles, professor of zoology at SIU, in a statement. “Much less is known about those. The species does appear to be declining, but at one time it was fairly abundant throughout their range. Nobody really knows why.”

The work involves drilling holes on frozen lakes and trapping the salamanders, though researchers admit that methods for studying them are not as fleshed out as those for other critters. In fact, scientists undertaking the effort were told to expect to catch just a few specimens.

For those that they do happen to catch, some quick data are taken down on the mudpuppy’s habitat, as well as its GPS location.

“Before releasing it back through the ice, I use a non-harmful stomach flushing technique to collect their stomach contents, which I bring back to my lab for identification,” said Alicia Beattie, a zoology graduate student at SIU, in a statement.

Top image: Graduate Student, Alicia Beattie, holding a threatened mudpuppie. (Courtesy Southern Illinois University Carbondale)

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