The Washington Times-Herald

Community

November 20, 2013

The lesser siren of Indiana

While most of the salamanders found in Indiana live on land, we do have three species that are water-loving animals. They are the hellbender, which will be featured in a future column, the mudpuppy, also known as waterdog, and the western lesser siren.

The hellbender is quite rare, the siren, while not rare is little know, and the mudpuppy can be very common.

The lesser siren is a member of the siren family that also includes the dwarf siren found in Florida and parts of Georgia and South Carolina, and the greater siren. The latter species ranges along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts from Virginia to Alabama. It is much larger than the lesser siren and can reach a length of up to three and one half feet.The lesser siren can be anywhere from seven inches to two feet in length. The male is larger than the female.

I dare say unless you are a fisherman, most of you have never seen a siren lesser or great. I have only observed two in my lifetime, both in the Wabash River. Our native species is eel-like in appearance, some people may have observed one and thought it was an eel.

To tell a siren from an eel, the siren has a pair of small forelimbs and also has external gills which the eel lacks.

To tell a siren from an eel, the siren has a pair of small forelimbs and also has external gills which the eel lacks.

The western lesser siren, there is also an eastern and Rio Grande subspecies, ranges from brown, gray, to black in color. It has a pointed tail tip, while the rest of the tail is rather compressed. It lives in a variety of habitats that include swamps, sloughs, weedy ponds, and other shallow quiet waters.

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