Ambystoma cingulatum and bishopi
© Michael Graziano
At a Glance
Until this year, the Frosted and Reticulated Flatwoods Salamanders were listed as one species—simply the Flatwoods Salamander. After the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service obtained information indicating the Flatwoods Salamander was actually two species, they listed the Frosted as threatened and the Reticulated as endangered.
Range: Northern Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama.
Habitat Type: Longleaf Pine Flatwoods.
Primary Diet: A variety of small invertebrates.
Estimated Population: Surveys indicate there are roughly 20 populations of Reticulated Flatwoods Salamander and 25 populations of the Frosted Flatwoods Salamander, many of these based on observation of just one individual.
States with Current Habitat
The Flatwoods Salamander was listed as a threatened species in 1999 primarily because of loss and degradation of both the ponds where the salamanders breed and the upland habitats of Longleaf Pine Flatwoods, where the salamanders live primarily underground during the non-breeding season. The causes of loss of habitat include logging, urban and agricultural sprawl, invasive plants, and drought.
Threats related to Global Warming
These two salamanders are at risk of losing habitat to rising sea levels, as well as being at risk from drought, which is predicted to become more common because of climate change, and habitat destruction.
Drought is particularly problematic for the salamanders because remaining populations are typically limited to single ponds, where consecutive years of drought and drying of the pond can lead to loss of the population. With droughts predicted to become more frequent and intense due to climate change, the Frosted and Reticulated Salamanders are in serious peril.
The species separation of the Reticulated and Frosted Flatwoods Salamanders has been found to date back millions of years to a time when the climate was warmer, sea levels were higher and the Apalachicola was an ocean bay rather than a river. This unique history highlights a further vulnerability for the two salamander species-much of their last remaining habitat is likely at risk of being submerged by rising seal levels caused by our warming planet.
In response to a lawsuit from the Center for Biological Diversity, Florida Biodiversity Project and Wild South, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recognized earlier this year that the Flatwoods Salamander was actually two species separated by the Apalachicola River drainage, with the Reticulated to the west and the Frosted to the east, and designated just over 27,000 acres of protected critical habitat for the two species.