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Claims of unusually large crocodilians are often questionable because of the lack of physical evidence and a verification process. We report on the longest Alligator mississippiensis (American Alligator) that has been officially measured in Florida. The state record for the longest alligator is 435.5 cm (14 ft 3.5 in) and is only the third specimen in Florida known to exceed 426.5 cm (14 ft). Discussion is presented about the measurements taken, techniques used to obtain the measurements, and personnel required for officially recognizing record specimens. We emphasize the importance of having qualified biologists verify measurements using standardized techniques and recommend that other states within the alligator's range develop a protocol similar to Florida's for measuring exceptionally large alligators.
We report the first records of tree-nesting Chaetura pelagica (Chimney Swifts) in Arkansas from the White River National Wildlife Refuge (WRNWR). These represent the only well-documented reports of tree-nesting swifts for many decades in the lower Mississippi Valley. The WRNWR may support a large population of tree-nesting swifts.
An adult male Alligator mississippiensis (American Alligator) with a large growth on the right forelimb was harvested from the wild by a nuisance-control trapper in Louisiana. The mass was determined histologically to be a fibromyxoma. To our knowledge, this neoplasm has not previously been described in American Alligators.
Lithasia armigera (Armored Rocksnail) historically occurred in the Cumberland, Ohio, and Tennessee river drainages of eastern North America, whereas Lithasia verrucosa (Verrucose Rocksnail) is known from the Ohio, Tennessee, and Black river drainages. Prior to our 24–27 September 2012 surveys, neither species had been recorded from the Mississippi River. We discovered Armored Rocksnail near the Mississippi River-Missouri River confluence in the St. Louis metropolitan area, and both Armored Rocksnail and Verrucose Rocksnail 5 linear miles east-northeast of Osceola, AR.
Alabama is a biodiversity hotspot. The diversity of chytrid fungi, however, is underexplored. For this reason, we used standard bait-culturing techniques to sample habitats in Tuscaloosa County for chytrids. We cultured 100 isolates; the majority was assigned to 23 taxa belonging to 6 of the 7 recognized orders. Some could not be assigned to a currently described taxon. The majority of isolates belonged to one of three taxa: Chytriomyces hyalinus, Rhizoclosmatium globosum, and Boothiomyces macroporosum. This result demonstrates that chytrid communities in Tuscaloosa County, as elsewhere, are composed of a few common and many uncommon to rare taxa. The presence of unidentified chytrid isolates demonstrates the need for further sampling in Alabama, and the potential for this sampling to broaden our understanding of chytrid diversity.
Sternotherus depressus (Flattened Musk Turtle) is a federally threatened species endemic to the Black Warrior River drainage in north-central Alabama. Individuals of both stream-dwelling and impoundment-dwelling populations were trapped for comparative demographic analyses. Carapace length was significantly longer for reservoir turtles than for stream turtles. Size-class distributions between the two populations were also significantly different, with reservoir turtle collections biased toward the larger size classes, and presumably older age classes. These results suggest a reduced recruitment in the reservoir population, and raise concerns about long-term population sustainability in impoundment habitats.
Feeding preference of Macrochelys temminckii (Alligator Snapping Turtle) is not well known. Juveniles reared with no prior exposure to natural prey were tested for innate prey (i.e., fish) preference and foraging ability for mussels in coarse and fine substrates. Alligator Snapping Turtles consumed fish non-selectively, except that they selected Lepomis macrochirus (Bluegill) over Gambusia affinis (Mosquitofish) in live-prey trials, and Lepomis cyanellus (Green Sunfish) over Notemigonus crysoleucas (Golden Shiners) in carrion trials. Juvenile Alligator Snapping Turtles were less active and less successful when foraging for a benthic prey species, Lampsilis siliquoidea (Fatmucket), in coarse substrate than they were when the mussels were in fine and no substrates. Juvenile Alligator Snapping Turtle preference for Bluegill in a controlled environment corresponds to predator and prey habitat associations but could also be influenced by prey (i.e., fish) behavior. Likewise, enhanced activity and prey encounters in fine substrate are consistent with observations of Alligator Snapping Turtle habitat use.
As part of the All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory (ATBI) of Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GRSM), select site parameters associated within upland sites were measured within variable sized pockets of stressed and dead Rhododendron maximum (Great Rhododendron). During the last 20 years, Great Rhododendron, an important shrub in the southern Appalachian Mountains, has been dying in small to larger areas from an unknown cause. With increased visibility of dieback, the study (2006–2009) was conducted at 10 sites in GRSM and 1 in Nantahala National Forest (NNF). Eleven nematode species were identified, with no specific trends across locations or by plot treatments in frequencies of occurrences. Exceptions were Criconemella xenoplax, which was found at all 11 locations and was generally significantly greater in healthy or control than dieback plots, whereas Helicotylenchus sp. was more frequent in dieback plots. Meloidogyne spp., known parasitic nematodes of woody plants and agricultural crops, occurred in over 50% of the locations; Hoploliamus sp. occurred at 40%; and Belomolaimus sp., which are very destructive to root systems, were found at low levels at the NNF site. Also, Heterodera sp. occurred in control and dieback plots in 10 of the locations. Dieback ratings were not significantly correlated to stem diameter; although the finding was not statistically significant, six of seven sites with dieback plots had numerically greater-sized stems than in the controls. No other parameters such as number of clonal units, site aspect, percent slope, or elevation showed any trends at both sites. Nutrient data did not indicate any specific relationships to plot damage or health. This study provides the first comprehensive reporting of nematode species that occur in Great Rhododendron and associated riparian and upland sites. With concerns of global climate impacts, this research provided additional baseline data for the ATBI of GRSM and NNF.
At the end of the 19th century, large sections of northern and central Florida were unexplored and their biota had been poorly documented. To correct these inadequacies, several northern museums organized and sent parties of experienced naturalists and collectors southward. About 1900, Willis W. Worthington, a New York taxidermist and collector, was hired by the Carnegie Museum as an explorer/naturalist and sent to Florida where he explored major rivers and lakes from Florida's Panhandle to the east coast, and south to the Lake Okeechobee region. Over a 40-year period, he collected several hundred bird-specimens and obtained natural history records.
We developed individual time-activity budgets for Anas platyrhynchos (Mallard; n = 281), A. strepera (Gadwall; n = 251), and Aythya collaris (Ring-necked Duck; n = 144) wintering on livestock ponds in the Blackland Prairies Ecological Region of Texas in January and February, 2000 and 2001. Feeding (32–38%), locomoting (24–49%), and resting (10–36%) dominated the activity budgets for each species. Behaviors varied between years, probably due to the 3-fold increase in precipitation that raised water levels in livestock ponds. In 2000 and 2001, Mallards fed nearly 50% and 20% of their time, respectively, with comfort and resting occupying 60% in 2001. Gadwalls locomoted nearly 50% of their time each year, but increased surface feeding 2-fold in 2001. Finally, Ring-necked Ducks spent about a third of their time locomoting, another third resting, and the remainder subsurface feeding in 2001. Focal species activity budgets were generally similar to those developed throughout their ranges. Livestock ponds in northeast Texas provide small but regionally widespread habitats for wintering waterfowl. Future work should focus upon diet and landscape occupancy rates of waterfowl using these habitats during winter.
We sampled fishes from eight creeks within the Bull and Upatoi creeks watershed in the summer months of June 2001 and August 2002 to provide a checklist of common fishes. This sample and its data support a more comprehensive study by the authors documenting an urbanization gradient among creeks and their associated differences in fish assemblage structure within this aquatic system. However, here we provide a simple, but useful, checklist of common Cyprinid and Centrarchid fishes to enhance future species-monitoring efforts within this watershed. We collected a total 2407 individuals representing 34 species from Lindsey, Cooper, Flatrock, Bull, Dozier, Randall, Kendall, and Baker Creeks by seining. Lepomis macrochirus (Bluegill), Cyprinella venusta (Blacktail Shiner), and Notropis buccatus (Silverjaw Minnow) were the most abundant species within the Bull and Upatoi creeks watershed. Conversely, Pimephales promelas (Fathead Minnow) and Pimephales vigilax (Bullhead Minnow) were the rarest. We calculated and present species richness (S), total abundance (TA), Shannon-Weiner diversity index (H'), maximum species diversity (H'max), and species evenness (J') for all eight creeks within the watershed. Additionally, we discuss stream characteristics, related microhabitat use by fishes within the watershed, and the potential influences of an urbanization gradient on fish assemblage structure.
We conducted a year-long investigation of the effect of watershed urbanization on the life history of Campostoma oligolepis Hubbs and Greene (Largescale Stoneroller). Lifehistory characteristics of separate populations of Largescale Stoneroller were compared by sampling two stream systems differing in urbanization in their upstream catchments. Both streams are located in the Etowah River drainage basin within the Piedmont ecoregion. We determined degree of urbanization by estimating the percent area of impervious catchment surfaces using ArcGIS, and we recorded stream temperatures with continuous-monitor probes. We sampled each stream system once a month during the spawning period and two additional months during the remainder of the year and recorded standard lengths, tuberculation, total weight, and gonadal weight for all retained specimens. Gonadosomatic index (GSI) values showed reproductively active individuals present in January in the urbanized system, one month before we found similar individuals in the non-urbanized system. Comparison of GSI values between systems suggested that reproductive maturity occurs at a larger size for females in the urbanized system. Comparison of standard lengths of reproductively active females indicated that growth rates are higher in the urban system.
Wetland habitats currently cover about one-fifth of Georgia and have been reduced in acreage by as much as twenty-five percent over the past two centuries due to anthropogenic activities. Accurate identification and careful study of these areas are crucial for their preservation and for compliance with federal and stat e environmental regulations. Several vegetation-based biological assessment methodologies have been developed to define wetlands and to assess their quality. One major wetland delineation system, mandated by federal law, incorporates the National Wetland Plant List (NWPL), a classification system ranking plant species in five indicator categories according to fidelity and preference for wetlands or uplands. These rankings were recently updated via a comprehensive and collaborative nationwide effort involving four government agencies and teams of wetland specialists. Another expert-based indicator system, coefficients of conservatism, is the foundation of the floristic quality index, a metric widely used in the United States for assessing ecological condition of wetlands (as well as other plant communities). The coefficients are based on breadth of habitat preference(s) and tolerance to disturbance, with exotic and ruderal species receiving the lowest scores and ecologically conservative species assigned the highest scores. A team of four botanists, proficient with the flora of Georgia, convened to assign coefficient of conservatism rankings to the 2262 NWPL species for the state. The resulting web-accessible database, which includes information such as regional wetland rankings and conservation status, is described here.
A new method (baited lines) is described for the collection of burrowing crayfishes, where fishing hooks baited with earthworms and tied to monofilament leaders are used to lure crayfishes from their burrow entrances. We estimated capture rates using baited lines at four locations across West Virginia for a total of four crayfish taxa; the taxa studied were orange, blue, and blue/orange morphs of Cambarus dubius (Upland Burrowing Catfish), and C. thomai (Little Brown Mudbug). Baited-line capture rates were lowest for C. thomai (81%; n = 21 attempts) and highest for the orange morph of C. dubius (99%; n = 13 attempts). The pooled capture rate across all taxa was 91.5% (n = 50 attempts). Baited lines represent an environmentally nondestructive method to capture burrowing crayfishes without harm to individuals, and without disturbing burrows or the surrounding area. This novel method allows for repeat captures and long-term studies, providing a useful sampling method for ecological studies of burrowing crayfishes.
To characterize tidally influenced Wood Stork foraging habitats, we documented the physical structure and potential prey populations of 17 known (based primarily on satellite telemetry locations) foraging and 20 “alternate” (similar habitat) sites, tidal creeks, in coastal Georgia. The majority of sites contained reaches partially impounded by three landscape features: oyster-shell dams, root/mud dams, or the junction of two or more creeks. Potential prey species, dominated by Fundulus heteroclitus (Mummichog) and shrimp, were highly variable among the tidal habitats but generally occurred in densities (average > 140 individuals/m2) far greater than those observed in an earlier inland Georgia study. There were no differences in potential prey densities between known foraging and alternate sites, confirming that the large salt marsh region of Georgia provides excellent foraging habitat for the regional Wood Stork population.
Plethodon ainsworthi Lazell was described as a new species in the slimy salamander (Plethodon glutinosus [Northern Slimy Salamander]) complex from two specimens collected in Jasper County, MS, in 1964. Prior to their designation as the type and paratype of the newly described species in 1998, both specimens were presumably stored in strong formalin for 26 years and thus were in poor condition. Plethodon ainsworthi is distinguished from the sympatric Plethodon mississippi (Mississippi Slimy Salamander) by a more attenuated body, as evidenced by a higher snout-vent length (SVL)/head width (HW) ratio, and shorter limbs. Despite numerous searches between 1991 and 1997, no subsequent specimens of P. ainsworthi were found. As a result, P. ainsworthi is the only modern-day amphibian in the United States to be declared extinct by the IUCN. In 2000 and 2001, we searched the presumed location of the type specimens of P. ainsworthi for additional specimens. Although we located slimy salamanders, we did not find any specimens with noticeably attenuated bodies or short limbs. We then compared SVL/HW ratios between the two specimens of P. ainsworthi, 24 specimens of slimy salamanders that we collected in Jasper County from or near the collection site of P. ainsworthi, and 50 museum specimens of P. mississippi collected from six counties in Mississippi outside of Jasper County. The upper limit of the SVL/HW ratio for some of the specimens we collected, as well as for some of the museum specimens of P. mississippi, was considerably higher than the 7.2 reported for P. mississippi by Lazell (1998). In addition, we found overlap in SVL/HW ratios between P. ainsworthi and one specimen of P. mississippi, although this individual did not have short limbs. The distinct morphology of P. ainsworthi may be the consequence of the long-term, improper preservation of specimens of P. mississippi. Our results provide compelling evidence that P. ainsworthi is not a valid taxon.
Setophaga cerulea (Cerulean Warbler) has been inadequately monitored along the Roanoke River in North Carolina since a breeding population was discovered there in 1972. Our objectives were to estimate the Cerulean Warbler's current population size and distribution along the river, and evaluate landscape habitat characteristics in the Roanoke River Basin among areas used and unused by the same species. In May 2001 and 2011, we surveyed for singing male Cerulean Warblers, primarily by boat, along approximately 160 km of the Roanoke River from Weldon to Williamston in northeast North Carolina. We found Cerulean Warblers in three distinct groups along the Roanoke River during both survey years; however, we detected at least 32.4% fewer males in 2011 (n = 23) than in 2001 (n = 34). The landscape within 500 m of areas used by Cerulean Warblers had significanlty less crop cover, blackwater floodplain (i.e., swamp) forest, and variation in mean canopy height than unused landscapes we surveyed. These same differences existed at distances up to 1 km, but several additional dissimilarities became evident at this scale, including presence of more evergreen plantations and a greater fragmentation of the dominant forested land cover at used versus unused landscapes. We recommend continued monitoring of the Cerulean Warbler along the Roanoke River, increased habitat protection, and encourage an in-depth investigation into management strategies to sustain this population.
Neotoma magister (Allegheny Woodrat) is a species of management concern throughout its range. Better knowledge regarding timing of activity may improve monitoring and conservation of the species. We used remote cameras to examine activity patterns of Allegheny Woodrats at 9 rock outcrops on Catoosa Wildlife Management Area, TN, February– October 2010. Woodrat activity was documented during all months of study. Highest levels of activity occurred during May and October, during the hours of 02:00–03:00, at <40% full moon illumination, and at minimum nightly temperatures of 5–10 °C. Focusing on periods of greatest activity (late spring and early fall during darker phases of the lunar cycle) may increase efficiency of monitoring ef forts for the species.
We summarized all known historical and contemporary data on the geographic distribution of Etheostoma raneyi (Yazoo Darter), a range-restricted endemic in the Little Tallahatchie and Yocona rivers (upper Yazoo River basin), MS. We identified federal and state land ownership in relation to the darter's distribution and provided quantitative estimates of abundance of the species. We also quantified sex ratio and mean size of males and females, summarized abiotic and physical characteristics of streams supporting the species, and characterized the fish assemblage most often associated with the Yazoo Darter. Yazoo Darters are generally limited to headwater streams, have a female-skewed sex ratio, and have larger males than females. Individuals in the Yocona River drainage are larger than in the Little Tallahatchie River drainage. Abundance was highly variable among streams within the two major drainages, but was similar within and between drainages. Yazoo Darter habitat in the Little Tallahatchie River drainage has some protection because many streams supporting this species are on land managed by federal or state agencies. Streams with Yazoo Darters are far less common in the Yocona River drainage, have almost no protection, and face growing pressure from urban expansion. For these reasons, management action is urgently needed for Yocona River populations.
A number of species are known to be predators of bats. In North America, the greatest number of bat predation records is by snakes. To date, no animals have been reported preying on Myotis septentrionalis (Northern Long-eared Bat). We report the predation of a Northern Long-eared Bat by Pantherophis spiloides (Gray Rat Snake) in Tennessee.
Predation is not thought to contribute significantly to adult hummingbird mortality in temperate areas, where most reported cases of mortality are the result of accidents (e.g., window collisions and spider webs). However, the hazards encountered during migration, including the threat of predation, can impact hummingbirds while on stopover. We present one account of predation upon Archilochus colubris (Ruby-throated Hummingbird) by Accipiter striatus (Sharp-shinned Hawk) and one account of a Ruby-throated Hummingbird displaying anti-predator behavior by mobbing a Falco sparverius (American Kestrel). All observations took place in coastal Alabama during stopover in autumn.
We observed a large adult Paddlefish entrained from the Mississippi River through the Bonnet Carré spillway, south Louisiana, which was injured and underweight. We captured, measured (23 metrics), and tagged the fish. After it had spent a week at large on the floodway, we recaptured and released it back into the Mississippi River. The specimen was re-captured eight months later in northern Mississippi, 627 km upriver from where it was released. Distance traveled and water velocities in the river indicate that the fish was traveling at least 90–197 cm/s for prolonged periods, equivalent to gross speeds of 77–170 km/d. This incident suggests that a large entrained fish, trapped for several days in a hyperthermic and hypoxic habitat, can be viable when returned to the river. It also demonstrated that rescue efforts could reduce impacts of spillway operations to fish populations, and that comprehensive field assessment of fish morphology can be benign t o fish.