The Washington Times-Herald


November 20, 2013

The lesser siren of Indiana


In Indiana it is only found in the western sections of our state. Its range extends from the Ohio River up to the Michigan border. Southern Indiana counties where it has been found are Posey, Vanderburg, Gibson, Knox, Dubois, Daviess, Sullivan, Vigo and Clay. It probably also exists in both Pike and Martin counties, but there are no records from these two counties.

The lesser siren is a very interesting animal. It is the only salamander known to produce deliberate sounds. Its repertoire includes clicks, whistles, yelps and hisses. It also likes to jerk its head and when captured will squirm quite vigorously and may try to bite its captor. It is believed the rhythmic clicks which occurs under water, and is accompanied by vigorous head movements, may be a form of communication with other sirens.

Another rather unusual feature of the lesser is it starts to nest in late winter or very early spring in an underwater sheltered cavity. A female can produce as many as 200 to 700 eggs. When the eggs hatch, the young larvae are only around a half inch in length. It then takes up to two years to reach adult size.

This siren feeds upon snails, small fish, insect larvae, aquatic plants, crayfish, and after a hard rain, earthworms that have been washed into the water.

As this siren can be found in shallow water, if the area where it lives dries up during a drought it has a way to stay alive until its home fills back up with water. The siren will either burrow down into the mud or enter a crawfish hole to wait for the return of water. Glands in the skin of the siren are able to secrete a form of mucus which then coats the skin of this water salamander to help to avoid it from becoming dehydrated.

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