Did you know that some salamander species in Texas live in water underground and never see the light of day? Unfortunately, overuse of groundwater, pollution, and habitat loss threaten them with extinction. Before we can decide how best to protect these animals, we need to know more about them. For example, how many species are there? Where do they live? What do they need to survive?
To learn more, we collected DNA from salamanders living in the springs and caves of the Edwards-Trinity aquifer system in Texas. Differences in DNA showed that the individual salamanders we collected fall into 14 different species. Three of those species were new discoveries! Then, we investigated how the different species were related, providing clues to how they evolved over millions of years.