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Helminth parasites (Trematoda, Nematoda) of the western slimy salamander, Plethodon albagula (Caudata: Plethodontidae), from central Texas.

The western slimy salamander, Plethodon albagula, is one of at least 13 species in the P. glutinosus complex (see Highton 1989). This medium to large salamander ranges from central Missouri southwestward through the Interior Highlands of Arkansas, with disjunct populations in eastern Texas (Upshur and Walker counties) and several counties of the Edwards Plateau (Conant & Collins 1998; Dixon 2000; LaDuc & Infante 2001; Trauth et al. 2004; Hibbitts 2006).

Although information is available on parasites of this salamander from Arkansas (Winter et al. 1986; McAllister et al. 1993; Upton et al. 1993), nothing, to the author's knowledge, has been published on helminth parasites of P. albagula from Texas. Herein is presented data on some helminth parasites of a small sample of P. albagula from near the westernmost extreme of its range.

On 6 March 2004, 12 juvenile and adult salamanders (six males, six females, mean [+ or -] 1 SD snout-vent length [SVL] = 52.3 [+ or -] 15.0, range 27-70 mm) were collected by hand in Bandera County, 10.1 km (6.3 mi) N Vanderpool, off FM 187, vicinity of Lost Maples State Natural Area (29[degrees] 45.3'N, 99[degrees] 33.5'W, elevation = 495.6 m). Salamanders were euthanized with a concentrated Chloretone (chlorobutanol) solution, fixed in 10% neutral buffered formalin for 48 hr, and later transferred to 70% ethanol until necropsy. The integument and underlying tissues were examined for chiggers and the entire gastrointestinal tract (including the liver and gall bladder), coelomic cavity, kidneys, urinary bladder, and reproductive organs were examined for endoparasites. Trematodes were stained with acetocarmine and mounted in Canada balsam. Nematodes were placed in a drop of glycerol on microscope slides and identifications were made from these temporary mounts.

Helminth voucher specimens were deposited in the Harold W. Manter Laboratory of Parasitology (HWML), Lincoln, Nebraska, as follows: Brachycoelium salamandrae (HWML 48201), Batracholandros magnavulvaris (USNPC 48202). Host voucher specimens were deposited in the Angelo State Natural History Collection (ASNHC 14120-14131), San Angelo, Texas.

Five of 12 (42%) P. albagula harbored parasites, including four (33%, two males, two females, 64.5 [+ or -] 7.2, 54-70 mm SVL) with six (mean intensity = 1.5 [+ or -] 1.0, range 1-3) Brachycoelium salamandrae in the small intestine; a single salamander (8%, female, SVL = 54 mm) harbored three Batracholandros magnavulvaris in the rectum. None of the salamanders were infested with chiggers or harbored cestodes. A summary of all known parasites of P. albagula is provided in Table 1.

The plagiorchid trematode, B. salamandrae, is a common endoparasite of amphibians and some reptiles from various sites in Europe, Brazil, Mexico, Canada, and the United States. This parasite has been previously reported in members of the P. glutinosus complex from across the eastern U.S. (see Rabalais 1970; Dyer & Brandon 1973; Brooks 1979; and others). In Texas, B. salamandrae (variously reported as the synonyms B. daviesi, B. hospitale, and B. meridionale) has been reported from green treefrogs (Hyla cinerea), western chorus frogs (Pseudacris triseriata), southern leopard frogs (Rana sphenocephala utricularia), smallmouth salamanders (Ambystoma texanum), Texas black-spotted newts (Notophthalmus meridionalis meridionalis), ground skinks (Scincella lateralis), and brown snakes (Storeria dekayi) (Harwood 1932). This is the first time this helminth has been reported from P. albagula.

The oxyurid nematode, B. magnavulvaris is a ubiquitous parasite of numerous salamanders (Joy & Tucker 2001). Their host list, along with more recent surveys include other members of the genus Plethodon, namely the Caddo salamander (P. caddoensis), Fourche Mountain salamander (P. fourchensis), Rich Mountain salamander (P. ouachitae), Sequoyah slimy salamander (P. sequoyah), and southern redback salamander (P. serratus), and Ouachita dusky salamander (Desmognathus brimleyorum) from the surrounding states of Arkansas and Oklahoma (Winter et al. 1986; McAllister et al. 1995; 2002; McAllister & Bursey 2004). Interestingly, McAllister et al. (1993) reported the related species, B. salamandrae from P. albagula from Arkansas. The discovery of B. magnavulvaris in P. albagula represents a new host and locality for this nematode parasite.

In summary, two new host and a geographic record is documented for helminth parasites of P. albagula. Future surveys on P. albagula from Texas should include a more complete examination of host components, including blood, feces, and gall bladder contents for protozoan parasites.


Thanks to Jon Fuller for assistance in collecting, Chuck Bursey for providing detailed host and locality information on Brachycoelium salamandrae, Agustin Jimenez (HWML) for curatorial assistance, and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department for scientific collecting permit 42-03.


Brooks, D. R. 1979. New records for amphibian and reptile trematodes. Proc. Helminthol. Soc. Washington, 46:286-289.

Conant, R. & J. T. Collins. 1998. A field guide to reptiles and amphibians of eastern and central North America. 3rd Edition, expanded. Houghton-Mifflin, Boston, Massachusetts, 616 pp.

Dixon, J. R. 2000. Amphibians and reptiles of Texas: with keys, taxonomic synopses, bibliography, and distribution maps. 2nd Edition. Texas A & M University Press, College Station, Texas, 421 pp.

Dyer, W. G. & R. A, Brandon. 1973. Helminths in three sympatric species of cave-dwelling salamanders in southern Illinois. Trans. Illinois Acad. Sci., 66:23-29.

Harwood, P. D. 1932. The helminths parasitic in the Amphibia and Reptilia of Houston, Texas, and vicinity. Proc. U.S. Natl. Mus., 81:1-71.

Hibbitts, T. J. 2006. Geographic distribution: Plethodon albagula. Herpetol. Rev., 37:484.

Highton, R. 1989. Biochemical evolution in the slimy salamanders of the Plethodon glutinosus complex in the eastern United States. I. Geographic protein variation. Illinois Biol. Monogr., 57:1-78.

Joy, J. E. & R. B. Tucker. 2001. Cepedietta michiganensis (Protozoa) and Batracholandros magnavulvaris (Nematoda) from plethodontid salamanders in West Virginia, U.S.A. Comp. Parasitol., 68:185-189.

LaDuc, T. J. & C. R. Infante. 2001. New Texas county records of amphibians and reptiles. Herpetol. Rev., 32:284-285.

McAllister, C. T. & C. R. Bursey. 2004. Endoparasites of the Sequoyah slimy salamander, Plethodon sequoyah (Caudata: Plethodontidae), from McCurtain County, Oklahoma. Texas J. Sci., 56(3):273-277.

McAllister, C. T., S. J. Upton & S. E. Trauth. 1993. Endoparasites of western slimy salamanders, Plethodon albagula (Caudata: Plethodontidae), from Arkansas. J. Helminthol. Soc. Washington, 60:124-126.

McAllister, C. T., S. J. Upton & S. E. Trauth. 2002. Parasites of four species of endemic Plethodon from Arkansas and Oklahoma. J. Arkansas Acad. Sci., 56:239-242.

McAllister, C. T., C. R. Bursey, S. J. Upton, S. E. Trauth & D. B. Conn. 1995. Parasites of Desmognathus brimleyorum (Caudata: Plethodontidae) from the Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas and Oklahoma. J. Helminthol. Soc. Washington, 62:150-156.

Rabalais, F. C. 1970. Trematodes from some Caudata in Louisiana. Amer. Midi. Nat., 84:265-267.

Trauth, S. E., H. W. Robison & M. V. Plummer. 2004. The amphibians and reptiles of Arkansas. Univ. Arkansas Press, Fayetteville, Arkansas, 421 pp.

Upton, S. J., C. T. McAllister & S. E. Trauth. 1993. The coccidia (Apicomplexa: Eimeriidae) of Caudata (Amphibia), with descriptions of two new species from North America. Canadian J. Zool., 71:2410-2418.

Winter, E. A., W. M. Zawada & A. A. Johnson. 1986. Comparison of the symbiotic fauna of the family Plethodontidae in the Ouachita Mountains of western Arkansas. Proc. Arkansas Acad. Sci., 40:82-85.

CTM at:

Chris T. McAllister

Department of Physical & Life Sciences, Chadron State College 1000 Main Street, Chadron, Nebraska 69337-2667
Table 1. Summary of parasites reported from P. albagula in Arkansas and

Parasite Locality Prevalence (1) Reference

 Cytamoeba bactifera Arkansas 3/37 (8%) McAllister et al.
 Cepedietta Arkansas 1/5 (20%) Winter et al. (1986)
 Arkansas 2/37 (5%) McAllister et al.
 Unknown isosporan (2) Arkansas 4/37 (11%) McAllister et al.
 Isospora hightoni Arkansas 8/46 (17%) Upton et al. (1993)
 Brachycoelium Texas 4/12 (33%) This report
 Cylindrotaenia Arkansas 10/37 (27%) McAllister et al.
 americana (1993)
 Unknown oxyuroids (3) Arkansas 1/5 (20%) Winter et al. (1986)
 Batracholandros Texas 1/12 (8%) This report
 B. salamandrae Arkansas 4/37 (11%) McAllister et al.
Acanthocephala (1993)
 unknown cystacanth Arkansas 1/37 (3%) McAllister et al.

(1) Prevalence = number infected/number examined (percent).
(2) Subsequently described as Isospora hightoni (see Upton et al. 1993).
(3) Most likely Batracholandros salamandrae.
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Title Annotation:GENERAL NOTE
Author:McAllister, Chris T.
Publication:The Texas Journal of Science
Geographic Code:1U7TX
Date:Nov 1, 2006
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