Neuse River Waterdog, Necturus lewisi

The Neuse River waterdog (Necturus Lewisi) is a species of mudpuppy. A member of the Proteidae family, this aquatic salamander is native to North Carolina. The species is found only in the Neuse and Tar-Pamlico Rivers.

During the daytime the Neuse River waterdog can be found in the backwaters, off the main current of the rivers. They prefer rich and sandy or muddy areas. Retreats are commonly built during this time. Using its snout as a shovel, the salamander will arrange sand and gravel to create this cavity and then take cover. The waterdog becomes active at night and leaves cover to feed. It is uncommon to ever see the species during the summer months as it burrows deep and becomes inactive.

Orange-brown coloration covers the Neuse River waterdog’s dorsal side and bluish-black spots appear on its head and back. The belly-side is typically a brown or grey and contains spots. Characteristics include a stout body, small limbs, and a vertically flattened tail. Its tail has fins both on the bottom and top.

The Neuse River waterdog feeds primarily on worms, arthropods, and mollusks. Other prey may include: mayflies, stoneflies, insects and small fish. Sight and smell are important in the waterdogs hunting habits.

The Neuse River waterdog begins its breeding season in the springtime. The adult female will bury its eggs, up to 40 per clutch, deep into areas with slow moving current. Larvae are guarded, commonly by the female salamander, and typically hatching occurs in June or July.

The species is currently listed as Near Threatened. The Neuse River waterdog requires good water quality for survival. Pollution and urban development is causing a dangerous decline in the population.

Image Caption: Neuse River waterdog (Necturus Lewisi). Credit: Ryan Somma/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 2.0)