Thursday, June 23, 2011
While my main mission in the Smokies did not involve amphibians, I just can't resist turning rocks and logs to see who might be home. And with a claimed two (2!) salamanders per square meter in some areas of the park, it'd have been folly not to salamander-search a bit. There are 31 salamander species in the Smokies (only 24 in all of Ohio), and some of them are extremely localized, occurring only or primarily in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I'd of course love to see them all, but that'd take a lot of effort and time not available to me on this mission. But there was one species in particular that I really wanted to see, and I did.
The Jordan's salamander is an emphatic punctuation point to the incredible and often extremely localized biodiversity of the Smokies. Even though this species can be locally abundant within the park, it is not known outside the park's borders.
UPDATE: Lee Casebere, of the Indiana Division of Nature Preserves, sent along this interesting back story on the naming of Jordan's salamander:
I read the entry on your blog regarding the Jordan’s Salamanders you found recently in the Smoky Mountains. I thought you might be interested in knowing that the naming of that salamander after David Jordan has strong Indiana connections to three individuals. The first connection is Jordan himself. David Starr Jordan was a well-known ichthyologist and later university president, and one of his first jobs was teaching in the biology department of Butler University in Indianapolis (the same Butler University of NCAA basketball finals fame the past two seasons). He left Butler for Indiana University where he again taught in the biology department. During his tenure at IU, he became president of the university at the young age of only thirty-four! He left IU to become president of Stanford University in California, where I believe he remained for the rest of his career.
While in the biology department at IU, one of Jordan’s students was a fellow named Willis S. Blatchley, the second Indiana connection related to this story. Blatchley was pretty much in awe of Jordan, and considered him very much a mentor. After college, Blatchley’s interests and accomplishments were many, and included such varied subjects as entomology, malacology, ornithology, herpetology & geology. He was the state geologist for the State of Indiana for quite a few years. His list of published papers is extremely long, and among his achievements was a treatment of Coleoptera that is still highly regarded today. Do a Google search of Willis Blatchley and many links will pop up!
And finally the third Indiana connection to this salamander -- In the summer of 1900, a man by the name of L.E. Daniels of LaPorte, Indiana was collecting mollusks in Tennessee. During his excursion, he collected several salamanders which he later gave to Blatchley. Among them was Jordan’s Salamander, which was undescribed at that time. Blatchley described the species and named it after his old friend and mentor David Starr Jordan.