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I spotted my first non-fish underwater creature and was surprised


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#1 Guest_EricaWieser_*

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Posted 20 August 2011 - 08:28 PM

I went out hiking with a friend today at Hanging Rock Park in North Carolina and we had a neat first experience.

I bought a snorkel mask and breathing tube just for the occasion, and was all excited to stick my head into a stream or something and see fishes. There were indeed some minnows or dace of some kind in the stream under the waterfall, but what was particularly interesting is what we saw in the lake. There were these hand-sized swimming creatures that from above water seemed like fish because they swam with their tail moving side to side like one. But when viewed from the side it became clear that they had legs, and would sit unmoving on the bottom. There were several of them scattered about, not afraid of people, and I was wondering what they are. They were about five to ten inches long, had a neat looking rounded tail, no visible gills, were tan or brown-ish with circles or patches of tan and brown, had a very visible stripe through their eye and along their body. At first we thought they were the skinks we had seen on our hike.

It was my first time ever seeing one. There were definitely sunfish in that lake too, and this really cute small clear fish with a colored tip of its caudal tail (not sure what that was). I wonder how those lizard-things avoided getting eaten by the big fish? It was all sandy bottomed, with no hiding places for them to escape from predation. And do they stay in the water all year round? They seemed to have no inclination to leave the water, just chilling down there not coming up for air. Can skinks stay underwater for long periods of time?

It's just neat to realize that there are things other than fish in the water. I guess it's good I learned that with this cute little thing first and not a water snake or something dangerous.

Edited by EricaWieser, 20 August 2011 - 08:36 PM.


#2 Guest_mneilson_*

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Posted 20 August 2011 - 09:31 PM

Probably not a skink...as far as I know (or have read), skinks are not aquatic at all. Sounds more like a salamander of some sort. Perhaps a siren or amphiuma? See if you can find it here.

#3 Guest_fundulus_*

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Posted 20 August 2011 - 09:56 PM

Does it look like this two-lined salamander?
Eurycea cirrigera 3 PH.jpg

#4 Guest_keepnatives_*

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Posted 21 August 2011 - 12:46 AM

Sounds like some big eastern newts

#5 Guest_EricaWieser_*

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Posted 21 August 2011 - 09:10 AM

Yes, I think it was a two lined salamander. The range is right and they did look like that. Are they found in lakes?

#6 Guest_fundulus_*

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Posted 21 August 2011 - 10:13 AM

The two-lineds are more often found in water in the spring, but that's a loose rule. I think they can be found in either lakes or streams, as long as it's not a really fast stream.

#7 Guest_blakemarkwell_*

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Posted 21 August 2011 - 10:30 AM

Yeah, if it was found with dace than it was most likely a Desmognathus or a brook salamander (Eurycea). However, it looks like the park you visited is in the Piedmont, so that essentially eliminates Desmognathus (they do have fuscus). Like Bruce said, it was most likely a two-lined salamander (Eurycea cirrigera). While Amphiuma and Siren are found in NC, they're mostly found in the Coastal Plain and wouldn't be observed with dace in springs (if you were dip-netting and catching Enneacanthus then I would entertain the possibility of Siren and the other lentic denizens).

Blake

Edited by blakemarkwell, 21 August 2011 - 10:31 AM.


#8 Guest_EricaWieser_*

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Posted 21 August 2011 - 10:58 AM

Yeah, if it was found with dace than it was most likely a Desmognathus or a brook salamander (Eurycea). However, it looks like the park you visited is in the Piedmont, so that essentially eliminates Desmognathus (they do have fuscus). Like Bruce said, it was most likely a two-lined salamander (Eurycea cirrigera). While Amphiuma and Siren are found in NC, they're mostly found in the Coastal Plain and wouldn't be observed with dace in springs (if you were dip-netting and catching Enneacanthus then I would entertain the possibility of Siren and the other lentic denizens).

Blake

Just to clarify, we visited two different bodies of water while in the park. The minnows/dace were in the stream under the waterfall. The lizard-creatures were in the lake, along with a species of sunfish and some three inch clear fish with a bit of yellow on its caudal fin. We didn't bring a dip net, just a snorkel and mask and goggles.

I think that it was a Eurycea cirrigera, a two lined salamander. It really did look like this: http://www.auburn.ed...ety/eurycea.jpg
I just thought it was interesting to see it in a lake (I think of salamanders more as stream creatures) and to see it in a lake with hungry sunfish. One would think it would get eaten.

And it was also interesting how much it looked like a fish when swimming. I pointed at it standing above water and said, "Fish!" and then ducked my head underwater and was like "Skink?". It fooled me : )

#9 Guest_blakemarkwell_*

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Posted 21 August 2011 - 04:04 PM

Yeah, the lake caudates might be the red-spotted newt (N. v. viridescens), like Mike said. However, if it looks like E. cirrigera that's pretty neat, as I've never observed them in lakes (they're restricted to rocky seeps and springs here in IL, although I've seined them in all different creek sizes in TN). Sorry, I was thinking you saw the salamanders with the dace!

Blake

Edited by blakemarkwell, 21 August 2011 - 04:13 PM.


#10 Guest_keepnatives_*

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Posted 21 August 2011 - 10:00 PM

I've never seen a two lined salamander in the 5-10 inch range. Plus I can't imagine descibing their swimmimg in deep water as fish like. Also have never seen them in lakes or ponds but suppose that's possible. Their tail probably would not be decribed as neat looking rounded tail, it's more long, narrow pointed then rounded. Red spotted newts can fit all those descriptions. Check out a variety of photos of Red spotted and eastern newts and see what you think.




#11 Guest_EricaWieser_*

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Posted 22 August 2011 - 08:19 AM

I've never seen a two lined salamander in the 5-10 inch range. Plus I can't imagine descibing their swimmimg in deep water as fish like. Also have never seen them in lakes or ponds but suppose that's possible. Their tail probably would not be decribed as neat looking rounded tail, it's more long, narrow pointed then rounded. Red spotted newts can fit all those descriptions. Check out a variety of photos of Red spotted and eastern newts and see what you think.

They were the size of my hand. I might have been exaggerating with 10 inches, but they definitely weren't less than 5. I didn't get close enough to hold it in my hand or anything, so the size estimate is very, very vague. (I was afraid it would bite me, so I didn't try to pet it.)

The water wasn't 'deep', it was up to our waists and a bit more. We stayed on the shore of the lake.

I looked at a red spotted newt (http://www.virginiah...g season100.jpg ) and the creature I saw had a more pronounced stripe than that. It also was not at all red.

Edited by EricaWieser, 22 August 2011 - 08:32 AM.


#12 Guest_smilingfrog_*

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Posted 22 August 2011 - 08:37 AM

They were the size of my hand. I might have been exaggerating with 10 inches, but they definitely weren't less than 5. I didn't get close enough to hold it in my hand or anything, so the size estimate is very, very vague.

The water wasn't 'deep', it was up to our waists and a bit more. We stayed on the shore of the lake.

I looked at a red spotted newt (http://www.virginiah...g season100.jpg ) and the creature I saw had a more pronounced stripe than that. It also was not at all red.


When you say the size of your hand, did you actually put your hand next to them to compare? I ask because there is a magnification effect when viewing underwater through a mask. When I started scuba diving in local lakes I was initially amazed at the abundance of "huge" sunfish until I compared them to my hand. Nope, they were still the same hand sized fish I was accustomed to catching, just both my hand and the fish looked a lot bigger underwater.

#13 Guest_EricaWieser_*

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Posted 22 August 2011 - 08:40 AM

When you say the size of your hand, did you actually put your hand next to them to compare? I ask because there is a magnification effect when viewing underwater through a mask. When I started scuba diving in local lakes I was initially amazed at the abundance of "huge" sunfish until I compared them to my hand. Nope, they were still the same hand sized fish I was accustomed to catching, just both my hand and the fish looked a lot bigger underwater.

Although I swam to within a foot of one, I didn't reach out and touch it because it was a wild animal and I didn't want it to bite me. I did have a snorkel mask on, and it was my first time wearing one, so I can't exclude a magnification effect. *nods* It's possible.

Edit: It was definitely larger than that clear fish that we saw that had the yellow line on its caudal fin. I can say that with certainty, although I don't know what that fish species is.

Edited by EricaWieser, 22 August 2011 - 08:44 AM.


#14 Guest_blakemarkwell_*

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Posted 22 August 2011 - 10:20 AM

If you ever get the chance, you should go back out and snap some photos. If it was E. cirrigera or a newt, I don't think you would be concerned with it biting you.

Blake

#15 Guest_gerald_*

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Posted 22 August 2011 - 08:43 PM

I vote for newt. I've seen many many two-lineds and they are ALWAYS in or along the shore of small shallow flowing streams or seeps; never in lakes and certainly not out in the open around sunfish. Newts taste yucky and hardly anything eats them, so they dont have much fear of predators like other salamanders do. Only the juvenile terrestrial stage (eft) is red. Aquatic adults are greenish to tan with little round spots, a yellow belly, and a stripe through the eye like you described. Dunno what the "clear fish with yellow tail" might be, other than mosquitofish or baby sunfish or bass.

#16 Guest_andyavram_*

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Posted 22 August 2011 - 09:05 PM

Hard for me to pass up a herp post.

Your creature definitely sounds like a salamander of some species. Did you happen to count the legs on it? Was there four or two? And are you sure there were no gills on the side, especially if they were really small?

There arenít many salamanders that would possibly be found in that situation.

I was thinking baby Common Muduppy (or other Necturus species) but they arenít found in that area and they avoid light, so wouldnít be hanging around in the day. Also they typically, but not always, have prominent gills.

I then thought a baby Ambystoma sp, but the only one that would grow over a few inches long would be an Eastern Tiger Salamander, but you are again out of range. And depending on how far along in development they are you should see gills.

Stream plethontid salamanders; Two-lined and others, would not be found in that type of habitat, with that type of behavior, nor would they be out in the daylight and would not have a rounded tail.

It essentially leaves my first thought and they best guess you were given; a Red-spotted Newt. They have red spots that may be very prominent or completely absent (otherwise there is no red on adults). Males especially will have a rounded tail. They grow around 5 inches long or so and have a variable amount of pattern which sometimes manifests itself into a dorsal-lateral stripe. Lastly, they are in your range and live in ponds with fish (they are toxic to eat) and commonly just sort of hang around the bottom of a pond in broad daylight. Everything fits.

Here are some pictures of adults out of the water.

First a female with a dorsal stripes forming a dorsolateral stripe.
Posted Image

Here is a male with the larger, rounded tail.
Posted Image

Hopefully though, you can go back and get a picture, even if it is just from above through the water.

But I would say with near complete confidence you saw some newts.

Andy

#17 Guest_EricaWieser_*

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Posted 22 August 2011 - 09:37 PM

It essentially leaves my first thought and they best guess you were given; a Red-spotted Newt. They have red spots that may be very prominent or completely absent (otherwise there is no red on adults). Males especially will have a rounded tail. They grow around 5 inches long or so and have a variable amount of pattern which sometimes manifests itself into a dorsal-lateral stripe. Lastly, they are in your range and live in ponds with fish (they are toxic to eat) and commonly just sort of hang around the bottom of a pond in broad daylight. Everything fits.

That does sound like the creatures I saw, yes. Hearing how newts are poisonous to fish and hang out in lakes, and how they can grow up to five inches and like to "hang around the bottom" (that's exactly what they were doing), yes, I do think that they were red spotted newts. Especially if the adults can have no red on them. It's interesting how variable the species is. I looked at some pictures of red spotted newts earlier that looked nothing like the pictures you just posted. It's neat that there's such variety.

Thank you all for being so specific with the ID. I really appreciate it, and am impressed with everyone's level of ID-ing skill. (My first thought when I saw it was "fish!" which was a pretty bad initial ID XD )

Edited by EricaWieser, 22 August 2011 - 09:46 PM.


#18 Guest_EricaWieser_*

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Posted 28 October 2011 - 07:55 PM

...this really cute small clear fish with a colored tip of its caudal tail (not sure what that was).

I figured out what that fish with the yellow tail was when I saw one in this video:

It's labelled as a red-breasted sunfish, and the view of it at 0:28 is exactly what I saw underwater with the snorkel goggles. I'm glad the mystery is finally solved :)

Edited by EricaWieser, 28 October 2011 - 07:55 PM.


#19 Guest_Gambusia_*

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Posted 31 October 2011 - 06:01 PM

I believe the lake there has redbreast sunfish along with redear and bluegill sunfishes.

#20 Guest_Bob_*

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Posted 01 November 2011 - 11:15 AM

Didn't know you were near Hanging Rock. Years ago, I went to nearby Mill Creek and brought home some red lip shiners. They didn't look like much in the net, but they were absolutely the most colorful minnow I've ever kept. Scarlet and bright yellow.

I went out hiking with a friend today at Hanging Rock Park in North Carolina and we had a neat first experience.

I bought a snorkel mask and breathing tube just for the occasion, and was all excited to stick my head into a stream or something and see fishes. There were indeed some minnows or dace of some kind in the stream under the waterfall, but what was particularly interesting is what we saw in the lake. There were these hand-sized swimming creatures that from above water seemed like fish because they swam with their tail moving side to side like one. But when viewed from the side it became clear that they had legs, and would sit unmoving on the bottom. There were several of them scattered about, not afraid of people, and I was wondering what they are. They were about five to ten inches long, had a neat looking rounded tail, no visible gills, were tan or brown-ish with circles or patches of tan and brown, had a very visible stripe through their eye and along their body. At first we thought they were the skinks we had seen on our hike.

It was my first time ever seeing one. There were definitely sunfish in that lake too, and this really cute small clear fish with a colored tip of its caudal tail (not sure what that was). I wonder how those lizard-things avoided getting eaten by the big fish? It was all sandy bottomed, with no hiding places for them to escape from predation. And do they stay in the water all year round? They seemed to have no inclination to leave the water, just chilling down there not coming up for air. Can skinks stay underwater for long periods of time?

It's just neat to realize that there are things other than fish in the water. I guess it's good I learned that with this cute little thing first and not a water snake or something dangerous.





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