Western Carolina University has a rather small claim to fame to the Urspelerpes brucei, a recently discovered species of salamander. Named for WCU professor Emeritus Richard Bruce, the amphibian is only 2 inches long—and the second smallest known species in the U.S.
This salamander was discovered in Stephens County, Ga., by accident. Teams of researchers were searching for an entirely different species of salamander when they stumbled upon what they recognized as a specimen previously unknown in the region.
After further study, Carlos Camp of Piedmont College stated that the salamander was “so distinct it belong[ed] in its own genus.”
Further investigations produced another specimen, eggs, and some larval bodies. The team was excited as the salamander was first spotted on a well-traveled path, thus opening the possibility of more as-yet undiscovered species in the area.
The team presented the salamander—which they dubbed as the “patch-nosed salamander”—in a paper that appeared in a 2009 issue of the Journal of Zoology.
The salamanders team of discoverers consisted of researchers from the University of Georgia Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources. While determining the salamander’s genus, the researchers chose to honor Bruce, who specialized in salamanders during his professorship.
John Maerz of Warnell replied “Dr. Bruce has done much of the foundational work on stream salamander ecology in the region and on the evolution of miniaturization in salamanders, so naming this species after him seemed a good fit.”