KANSAS (KSNT) – A search for some of the rarest, and slimiest, species in the state ended with success after biologists went underground to conduct a cave survey.

The Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP) said some of its biologists managed to find all three species of Kansas threatened and endangered salamanders during a recent cave survey in a discovery it called “lucky” on social media. The species include the Long-tailed Salamander, the Cave Salamander and the Grotto Salamander. Each of these species are considered endangered with the exception of the Long-tailed Salamander which is considered to be threatened.

(Left to right) Larval Grotto Salamander, Cave Salamander and a Long-Tailed Salamander.

The salamanders dwell exclusively in Cherokee County in the southeast corner of the state, according to the KDWP. The salamanders all favor environments that are moist and rely heavily on water to keep their skin wet. Each of the salamanders found in the survey belong to the family Plethodontidae and are called lungless salamanders as they breathe through their skin and a mucus membrane found in their mouths.

The caves of Cherokee County are part of the Ozark Plateau region, according to a Kansas Geological Survey publication by James Young and Jonathan Beard in 1993. An especially large cave system for the state, mapped to a length of 2,566 feet or almost half a mile, contains habitat for the salamander species listed above alongside the Dark-sided Salamander and the Graybelly Salamander.

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