Lesser Siren

Lesser Siren

name = Lesser Siren

status = LC
status_system = IUCN3.1
regnum = Animalia
phylum = Chordata
classis = Amphibia
subclassis = Lissamphibia
ordo = Caudata
familia = Sirenidae
genus = "Siren"
species = "S. intermedia"
binomial = "Siren intermedia"
binomial_authority = Barnes, 1826,

The Lesser Siren ("Siren intermedia") is a species of aquatic salamander native to the eastern United States and northern Mexico. They are referred by numerous common names, including Two-legged Eel, Dwarf Siren, and Mud Eel. The epithet "intermedia" denotes their intermediate size, between the Greater Siren, "Siren lacertina", and the Dwarf Siren, "Pseudobranchus" sp.


The Lesser Siren is nocturnal, spending its days hidden in the debris and mud at the bottom of slow moving bodies of water. They feed primarily on aquatic invertebrates, including various kinds of worms, snails, and crustaceans. They will also eat the tadpoles and eggs of other amphibians.

Reproduction occurs in the spring months, with eggs being laid in a shallow depression at the bottom of a calm area of water. Usually surrounded by vegetation. Though little is known about their courtship, it is believed to be quite violent, as many specimens collected have scarring from healed bite marks from other sirens. 12-300 eggs are laid at a time, and several clutches may be laid over the course of the year. Hatchlings are only about 0.4 of an inch (1.1 cm) in length, but grow quickly. Maturity is reached in 3-4 years.

The Lesser Siren is vocal, unlike most salamanders, and will emit a series of clicks when they approach others of their species, or a short screeching sound if handled.

If the habitat dries up during the summer months, Lesser Sirens are capable of excreting a substance from their skin which protects them from dehydrating, and enables them to stay buried in dry mud for months until the water returns. Their small legs enable them to move on dry land for short periods of time.

Geographic distribution

The Lesser Siren is found in the United States, primarily from Virginia to Florida, and west to Texas (ranging into northeastern Mexico as far as Veracruz), and north to Illinois, Indiana and Michigan.


Sources disagree on the number of subspecies are within "Siren intermedia", most agree that there are at least two, an eastern and a western variety. Many sources also include a third subspecies, the Rio Grande Lesser Siren, "Siren intermedia texana", but researchers disagree whether the Rio Grande variety belongs as a Lesser Siren, within "Siren intermedia", or as a Greater Siren, within "Siren lacertina", and some others even consider it to be its own species, as "Siren texana".

*Eastern Lesser Siren, "Siren intermedia intermedia" (Goin, 1942)
*Western Lesser Siren, "Siren intermedia nettingi" (Goin, 1942)
*Rio Grande Lesser Siren, "Siren intermedia texana" (Goin, 1957)

Conservation status

The Lesser Siren is quite common through most of its range, but rarely seen due to its secretive nature. Like almost all species of amphibian, it is believed that their numbers are declining due to general reductions in water quality, believed to be caused by agricultural pesticide and fertilizer runoff. They are frequently collected and used as bait for fishing. The species is believed to be extirpated from the state of Michigan, and the "S. i. texana" subspecies is listed as a threatened species in the state of Texas.


*cite web
url= http://www.iucnredlist.org/search/details.php/59491/summ
title = IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
accessdate = 2008-08-24

* [http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Siren_intermedia.html Animal Diversity Web: "Siren intermedia"]
* [http://www.inhs.uiuc.edu/cbd/herpdist/species/si_interme.html INHS Reptile & Amphibian Collection: "Siren intermedia" - Lesser Siren]

External links

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