Discovery of the Mexican Blindcat, Prietella phreatophila, in the U.S., and an update on its rangewide conservation status
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Mexican blindcat, Prietella phreatophila, was described in 1954 from a single locality in Northern Coahuila, México. Long listed as endangered by the Mexican federal government, it was listed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a foreign endangered species in 1970, and the most recent (1996) update of its assessment for the IUCN Red List considers it endangered as well. Explorations in the late 1990s discovered many new localities extending nearly to the international border, and a captive population established provided insights into the species’ basic biology and behavior. In 2016 the species was discovered in a cave in the Amistad National Recreation Area (ANRA), just north of the Río Grande in Texas. The 1970 listing instantly gave the TX population full protection under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. The species’ subterranean and mostly inaccessible habitat endows it with extremely low detectability and its actual range is likely broader than physical sampling of specimens has revealed. We review all prior and new knowledge of the species and its habitat to provide an updated international reassessment of its overall conservation status and threats, which most notably include aquifer depletion and contamination in both the Mexican and U.S. portions of its known range. A live captive population of two specimens collected in 1997 in Coahuila and one Texas specimen is now at the San Antonio Zoo, we are working with NPS to further explore ANRA caves and hope eventually to return to Coahuila to more fully update the species’ conservation status.
presented at the 2017 meeting of the Texas Academy of Science at Mary Hardin Baylor University, Belton, Texas
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