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Species Description

Dwarf Siren

Pseudobranchus striatus


Classification

Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Amphibia
Order: Caudata
Family: Sirenidae

Description

Gray to dark brown. Two subspecies are found in Georgia, the Broad-striped Dwarf Siren Pseudobranchus striatus striatus and the Slender Dwarf Siren Pseudobranchus striatus spheniscus. The Broad-striped Dwarf Siren has a very broad brownish stripe flanked by yellow down each side. The Slender Dwarf Siren has narrower light tan to yellow stripes on the sides of the body. This is the smallest of the sirens, ranging from 10 - 15 cm (4 - 6 in) in length.

Life Cycle

Little is known about Dwarf Siren reproduction. Fertilization is assumed to be external. Eggs are laid in the spring attached to aquatic vegetation. They hatch in about one month. Shallow, weedy waters, such as ditches filled with water hyacinth, provide an ideal habitat for the Dwarf Siren, which is totally aquatic but very sluggish. It hunts at night for aquatic insects, worms, and other small organisms. Sirens are among the many amphibians that can survive drought by aestivation, burrowing into the muddy bottom and covering their body with a cocoon made of mucus and shed skin. Sirens can survive in this manner for several months.

Range

Dwarf Siren Region Map The Dwarf Siren is found only in the extreme southeastern United States. In Georgia this siren is found throughout the lower Coastal Plain. The Broad-striped Dwarf Siren occurs on the Atlantic Coast, and the Slender Dwarf Siren occurs on the western Coastal Plain and into Florida.

Conservation Status

The Dwarf Siren is listed as a species Of Special Concern in South Carolina, but this may be because it is at the edge of its distribution there. In Georgia, the Dwarf Siren does not appear to be under any threat at the present time. As the introduced exotic water hyacinth encroaches upon Georgia waterways, habitat for this species may be increasing. Protecting habitat and reducing pollution, siltation, and pesticide use will help protect populations of the Dwarf Siren.

Similar Species

Sirens can be mistaken for eels. Look for external gills and small front feet to identify the sirens. The Dwarf Siren is the only siren that has three toes on its front feet; the others have four. Amphiumas do not have external gills as do the sirens.