Oct 26
Photo of Florida perforate reindeer lichen on sand

Florida perforate reindeer lichen (Cladonia perforata)

Species: Florida perforate reindeer lichen (Cladonia perforata)

Status: Endangered (EN)

Interesting Fact: The Florida perforate reindeer lichen is not known to reproduce sexually, instead spreading vegetatively when broken-off pieces of the lichen re-grow.

More information:

As its name suggests, the Florida perforate reindeer lichen is found only in Florida in the United States, where it occurs in three separate regions, each with a number of highly fragmented populations. Like other lichens, this species consists of two different organisms, a fungus and an alga, living in a close symbiotic relationship. The Florida perforate reindeer lichen grows in a complex branching pattern, with each branch measuring around four to six centimetres in length. The branches are smooth and yellowish- or greyish-green, and have conspicuous holes at the base. This species grows slowly, only branching once a year. The Florida perforate reindeer lichen grows on high sand dune ridges among Florida rosemary scrub, where it typically occurs in open patches of sand between the shrubs.

One of the main threats to the Florida perforate reindeer lichen is habitat loss due to development and land conversion. This species is also vulnerable to disturbances caused by fires and hurricanes, and can be trampled by people and by vehicles using sand dunes for recreation. In 1993, the Florida perforate reindeer lichen became the first lichen species to be placed on the U.S. Endangered Species List, meaning that all federal landowners with populations of this species are responsible for protecting and conserving it. In addition, Florida has an active conservation programme which monitors and conserves species such as this by acquiring and managing land. Several of this lichen’s populations are protected, and the species has been reintroduced to some locations. Further measures are needed to ensure that the Florida perforate reindeer lichen and its habitat are protected from trampling and unsuitable fire regimes.

 

Find out more about conservation in Florida at The Nature Conservancy – Florida and the Conservation Trust for Florida.

See more images of the Florida perforate reindeer lichen on ARKive.

Liz Shaw, ARKive Text Author

Oct 19
Photo of Louisiana pine snake

Louisiana pine snake (Pituophis ruthveni)

Species: Louisiana pine snake (Pituophis ruthveni)

Status: Endangered (EN)

Interesting Fact: The Louisiana pine snake is non-venomous, instead using its body to crush its prey.

More information:

One of the rarest and least understood snakes in the United States, the Louisiana pine snake occurs in longleaf pine forests in parts of Louisiana and eastern Texas. This large snake relies on pocket gophers for food, hunting them in their underground burrows and pinning them to the side of the burrow to kill them. It also eats some other small mammals, as well as birds, bird and turtle eggs, and lizards. The Louisiana pine snake spends most of its time underground, usually relying on pocket gopher burrows for shelter and for hibernation sites. This snake has the smallest clutch size of any North American snake, at just three to five eggs. However, its eggs are larger than those of other North American species.

The Louisiana pine snake’s longleaf pine habitat is one of the most threatened ecosystems in the United States, with only 3% of the original forest now remaining. Much has been logged or degraded by urbanisation, agriculture and the cultivation of other pine species. Changed fire regimes have also altered the structure of the habitat, making it less suitable for the snake and its prey. The Louisiana pine snake is often killed on roads and may be threatened by collection for the pet trade. Recommended conservation measures for this snake include protecting its remaining populations, maintaining and restoring its habitat, and undertaking more research into its populations and behaviour. The Louisiana pine snake is a candidate species for potential listing on the U.S. Endangered Species Act, and is legally protected in Texas. A reintroduction project is underway for this rare and elusive species.

 

Find out more about the Louisiana pine snake at the National Wildlife Federation and see Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation for more information on reptile conservation.

See fact file and images of the Louisiana pine snake on ARKive.

Liz Shaw, ARKive Text Author

Aug 31
Photo of red wolf panting

Red wolf (Canis rufus)

Species: Red wolf (Canis rufus)

Status: Critically Endangered (CR)

Interesting Fact: Breeding pairs of red wolves mate for life and usually live in small packs with their offspring, who help rear subsequent litters of pups.

More information:

A smaller relative of the grey wolf, the red wolf is characterised by the reddish colour of its fur, with this colour being most apparent on its neck and legs. The red wolf is most active at dawn and dusk, when it hunts mammals such as rabbits, deer, raccoons and small rodents. It is also reported to feed on carrion. Breeding pairs typically have litters of three to six pups, and all the members of the pack help to rear the young. The red wolf inhabits swamps, forests and wetlands, and was once common throughout the eastern and south-central United States.

The red wolf is one of the rarest canids in the world. Extensive persecution and forest clearance caused a dramatic decline in its population, while hybridisation with the closely related coyote posed a further threat. Despite being designated as an endangered species in 1967, the red wolf became extinct in the wild by 1980. Fortunately, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had already begun efforts to conserve this charismatic predator, and the last few wild individuals had been taken into captivity to start a captive breeding programme. The red wolf has now been reintroduced to a remote part of North Carolina, and as of 2010 the reintroduced population numbered around 130 individuals. The species is fully protected within its current range, but education programmes will be important in maintaining public support for this large carnivore. As a top predator, the red wolf can help control populations of deer, raccoons and small rodents, and therefore plays a vital role in the ecosystems it inhabits.

 

Find out more about the red wolf at the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Red Wolf Recovery Program and the Red Wolf Coalition.

See images and videos of the red wolf on ARKive.

Liz Shaw, ARKive Text Author

May 24

Amphibian species in the United States are declining at an alarming rate, according to a new study published this week.

Photo of pickerel frog

Even common amphibians such as the pickerel frog are undergoing declines

The study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, gives the first estimate of how rapidly frogs, toads and salamanders in the U.S. are disappearing. Carried out by scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), under the auspices of the USGS Amphibian Research and Monitoring Initiative, the research was undertaken over 9 years and looked at 48 amphibian species.

Worryingly, the results showed that amphibian populations across the country are affected, and even species that were thought to be stable and widespread are showing declines. Even more alarmingly, these declines are also occurring in protected areas such as national parks and wildlife refuges.

Significant concern

On average, the populations of the amphibians studied were disappearing at a rate of 3.7% a year. If this continues, these species would disappear from half of their current habitat in the next 20 years.

Photo of Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog in habitat

The Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog is listed as Endangered by the IUCN

Even though these declines seem small on the surface, they are not,” said Michael Adams, the lead author of the study. “Small numbers build up to dramatic declines with time. We knew there was a big problem with amphibians, but these numbers are both surprising and of significant concern.”

The outlook is even worse for species already listed as threatened on the IUCN Red List, which are vanishing at a rate of 11.6% each year. At this rate, these species could disappear from half the habitats they currently occupy in just six years.

Amphibians have been a constant presence in our planet’s ponds, streams, lakes and rivers for 350 million years or so, surviving countless changes that caused many other groups of animals to go extinct,” said Suzette Kimball, USGS Director. “This is why the findings of this study are so noteworthy; they demonstrate that the pressures amphibians now face exceed the ability of many of these survivors to cope.”

Photo of Flatwoods salamander on sand

The Flatwoods salamander is under threat from the loss and degradation of its habitat

Causes of amphibian declines

The study did not look at the causes of the amphibian declines, but amphibians worldwide are known to be facing a wide range of threats, including habitat loss, invasive species, pollution and disease, particularly the deadly fungal disease chytridiomycosis.

The surprise finding that amphibians are declining even in areas managed for conservation, such as national parks, suggests that the factors affecting these species are widespread.

The declines of amphibians in these protected areas are particularly worrisome because they suggest that some stressors – such as diseases, contaminants and drought – transcend landscapes,” said Michael Adams. “The fact that amphibian declines are occurring in our most protected areas adds weight to the hypothesis that this is a global phenomenon with implications for managers of all kinds of landscapes, even protected ones.”

Photo of Arroyo toad, close up

The Arroyo toad, another Endangered U.S. amphibian

Amphibians are important components of healthy ecosystems, providing food for other animals and helping to control pests. They also provide a source of medicines for humans, and are beautiful and fascinating creatures in their own right.

According to Brian Gratwicke of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, “[These findings are] very bad news for amphibians. Now, more than ever, we need to confront amphibian declines in the U.S. and take actions to conserve our incredible frog and salamander biodiversity.”

 

Read more on this story at the U.S. Geological Survey press release and Scientific American blog.

Find out more about amphibian conservation at ARKive’s amphibian conservation page and at the USGS Amphibian Research and Monitoring Initiative.

View photos and videos of amphibians from the United States on ARKive.

You can also have a go at becoming a conservation superhero and helping save amphibians on ARKive’s online game, Team WILD!

Liz Shaw, ARKive Text Author

Mar 18

It’s National Wildlife Week in America and a perfect excuse for us to comb the ARKive collection for species in support of this year’s theme, ‘Branching Out for Wildlife’ – celebrating trees and their importance to wildlife and people.

Trees are essential for species survival around the world. They provide vital habitat for species in nearly every category from mushrooms to mammals and everything in between. Their leaves clean the air we breathe and their wood provides invaluable ecosystem services to humans. Basically, we just couldn’t survive without them!

We thought we’d showcase some of our favorite images on ARKive featuring species ‘branching out’ in their own ways. Take a look; you might be surprised at some of the species on our list!

Ring-tailed clinger

Photo of Northern raccoon

You may have spotted a Northern raccoon scampering around the forest floor but this species is actually right at home climbing in and around the limbs of trees. For a more classic image of raccoons and trees, take a look at these cuties.

Leg-less limb lounger

ARKive's common garter snake species profile

Did you know that some snakes could climb trees? Snakes like this red-sided garter snake are able to slither their way up trunks and limbs to avoid predators or, in this case, to escape from a pining male suitor.

Fir-climbing feline

ARKive's Canada lynx species profile

You’ve probably heard the story of the little house kitty that got stuck up in the tree, right? Well, the far distant cousin of the house cat, the Canada lynx, has no problem ambling up and around the trees in its native habitat. On the ground, these cats rely on fallen trees, among other shrubbery, for cozy bedding.

Pine tree pecker

ARKive's pileated woodpecker species profile

No collection of tree-dwelling species would be complete without a woodpecker which uses its powerful beak to ‘peck’ holes into tree trunks to create a home. Woodpeckers like this pileated woodpecker are especially important to the woodland ecosystems since vacated woodpecker homes provide essential shelter for other species such as owls, bats and swifts.

Branching bear

ARKive's brown bear species profile

While the large claws of the brown bear are better suited for digging rather than tree climbing, it certainly doesn’t stop this opportunistic feeder from climbing up a trunk or two for a meal.

Can you think of other American species that require trees to live? Why not do some exploring around the Wisconsin’s Northwoods or the Eastern deciduous forest of the US. Shout out your favorite species in the comments below and include a link to the species on ARKive so we can learn together!

Liana Vitali, ARKive Education and Outreach Manager, Wildscreen USA

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