May 20, 2010 · Uncategorized

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Alabama has been a great place to visit. There is some amazing wildlife in the state with quite a few endemic species. Working with friends and colleagues, I’ve been able to see just a small slice of this biodiversity. I’d like to thank J.J. Apodaca, Dismal’s Canyon Park, Randall Blackwood, Bernie Kuhajda, and Mark Mandica for time, help, and fun in the field.

Alabama is rich in subterranean habitats. This cave system has a stream flowing out of it.

Alabama is rich in subterranean habitats. This cave system has a stream flowing out of it.

Of all of the obligate subterranean amblyopsid fishes, the Alabama Cave Fish (Speoplatyrhinus poulsoni) is the most divergent in body form...particularly in head shape.

Of all of the obligate subterranean amblyopsid fishes, the Alabama Cave Fish (Speoplatyrhinus poulsoni) is the most divergent in body form...particularly in head shape.

The Alabama Cave Fish, Speoplatyrhinus poulsoni, is named after the famous cave fish biologist, Tom Poulson. It is a single site endemic in Alabama and is federally listed as an endangered species.

The Alabama Cave Fish, Speoplatyrhinus poulsoni, is named after the famous cave fish biologist, Tom Poulson. It is a single site endemic in Alabama and is federally listed as an endangered species.

Southern Cave Fish (Typhlichthys subterraneus) is present in a number of Alabama caves.

Southern Cave Fish (Typhlichthys subterraneus) is present in a number of Alabama caves.

Adding to their strange appearance, the lack of eyes in Southern Cave Fish make them an oddity for most folks.

Adding to their strange appearance, the lack of eyes in Southern Cave Fish make them an oddity for most folks.

Who said that Southern Cave Fish are diminutive in size?

Who said that Southern Cave Fish are diminutive in size?

The Alabama Cave Shrimp (Palaemonias alabamae) is a federally listed endangered species also ranked by the IUCN as "EN" or endangered.

The Alabama Cave Shrimp (Palaemonias alabamae) is a federally listed endangered species also ranked by the IUCN as "EN" or endangered.

Sharing common characters with other obligate subterranean wildlife, these shrimp are blind and without pigment.

Sharing common characters with other obligate subterranean wildlife, these shrimp are blind and without pigment.

Inside the carapace, eggs can be seen developing within this female.

Inside the carapace, eggs can be seen developing within this female.

The body size of the Alabama Cave Shrimp is about an inch total length.

The body size of the Alabama Cave Shrimp is about an inch total length.

One of the endemic cave crayfish to Alabama is Procambarus pecki.

One of the endemic cave crayfish to Alabama is Procambarus pecki.

Aa a subadult, Procambarus pecki has smaller chelae (pinchers).

Aa a subadult, Procambarus pecki has smaller chelae (pinchers).

Orconectes australis is a species of cave crayfish with a larger distribution including Alabama and other states.

Orconectes australis is a species of cave crayfish with a larger distribution including Alabama and other states.

If you haven't been to Dismals Canyon Park to see the glowworms, you need to. The glowworms are larval flies (Orfelia fultoni) referred to affectionately at Dismals Canyon Park as "Dismalites."

If you haven't been to Dismals Canyon Park to see the glowworms, you need to. The glowworms are larval flies (Orfelia fultoni) referred to affectionately at Dismals Canyon Park as "Dismalites."

I got to watch a larvae eat a fly that it caught in its web.

I got to watch a larvae eat a fly that it caught in its web.

Eating a fly...

Eating a fly...

A few fly larvae can spin webs like spiders to catch their prey, including the fungus gnat (Macrocera nobilis).

A few fly larvae can spin webs like spiders to catch their prey, including the fungus gnat (Macrocera nobilis).

I think that the unique aspect about the glowworm (Orfelia fultoni) is how they attract insects to their webs – bioluminescence.

I think that the unique aspect about the glowworm (Orfelia fultoni) is how they attract insects to their webs – bioluminescence.

In Dismals Canyon, glowworms can be seen in considerable densities. Here is a shot of a few glowworms in close proximity on a rock face.

In Dismals Canyon, glowworms can be seen in considerable densities. Here is a shot of a few glowworms in close proximity on a rock face.

Another more famous glowworm is New Zealand's cave dwelling glowworm (Arachnocampa luminosa). The difference between North America's species (Orfelia fultoni) and New Zealand's species is a second lantern inside the bodies of North America's species. There is a lantern at each of Orfelia fultoni.

Another more famous glowworm is New Zealand's cave dwelling glowworm (Arachnocampa luminosa). The difference between North America's species (Orfelia fultoni) and New Zealand's species is a second lantern inside the bodies of North America's species. There is a lantern at each of Orfelia fultoni.

The blue light produced by "Dismalites" (Orfelia fultoni) is one of the most blue lights produced via bioluminescence.

The blue light produced by "Dismalites" (Orfelia fultoni) is one of the most blue lights produced via bioluminescence.

The Red Hills Salamander (Phaeognathus hubrichti) is an endemic to several counties of Alabama.

The Red Hills Salamander (Phaeognathus hubrichti) is an endemic to several counties of Alabama.

The Red Hills Salamander was not described until 1960. Because it lives below the ground in burrows, it had been elusive to biologists.

The Red Hills Salamander was not described until 1960. Because it lives below the ground in burrows, it had been elusive to biologists.

The Red Hills Salamander can attain lengths of roughly 10 inches (~25 cm).

The Red Hills Salamander can attain lengths of roughly 10 inches (~25 cm).

I'd like to thank J.J. Apodaca for showing me such a cool salamander!

I'd like to thank J.J. Apodaca for showing me such a cool salamander!

The Red Hills Salamander is a federally listed endangered species and is listed by the IUCN as "EN" or endangered. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 60% of the remaining habitat for the salamander is owned or leased by paper companies.

The Red Hills Salamander is a federally listed endangered species and is listed by the IUCN as "EN" or endangered. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 60% of the remaining habitat for the salamander is owned or leased by paper companies.

Written by Dante


9 comments on “Alabama’s Biodiversity”

  1. Mark Mandica:

    Great shots of a fantastic trip! Can’t wait to go there again!


  2. Dante:

    Had a great trip with you! We saw some miraculous wildlife. I’m looking forward to the next trip.

    Cheers & Thanks


  3. Tom Poulson:

    Dante’

    Spectacular photos as always. I especially am taken with our native glow-worm — I did not know it existed.

    :-) Tom


  4. Dante:

    Hi Tom,

    Thank you so much. The glowworms were one of the best examples of bioluminescence that I have ever seen. Simply spectacular. The trip out to see your namesake cave fish wasn’t too shabby a day either!

    Cheers & Thanks


  5. Nor:

    I love your macro photography work. The Red Hills salamander shots are great. I also love to take wildlife photos, and my macro shots have always been my favorites. It’s always interesting to show different angles and a detail that most people don’t get to see. Keep up the great work!

    Nor


  6. Dante:

    Hi Nor,

    Thanks for the comments. The Red Hills Salamander was a real treat for me. What an amazing species!

    Cheers & Thanks,
    Dante


  7. Sam:

    Dr. Fenolio,

    I tip my hat to the best Phaeognathus shots I’ve ever seen. Truly amazing.

    Sam


  8. Henry Robison:

    All I can say is WOW! I have always wanted to see the Red Hills salamander ever since reading the “Amphibians and Reptiles’ book years ago! Your photos of this litle beast are fantastic, the best I have ever seen! The glowworms were awesome also. Keep up your wonderful documentation of the biodiversity of the world dante!


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