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Species Description

Lesser Siren

Siren intermedia


Classification

Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Amphibia
Order: Caudata
Family: Sirenidae

Description

Dark greenish, brown, or black. The back is dark; the belly is somewhat lighter. There may be tiny dark spots on the back. Across the snout and down the sides of the head, young sirens of this species have a red stripe, which disappears within a few years. 18 - 38 cm (7 - 15 in) in length. There are three subspecies, but only the smallest one is found in Georgia.

Life Cycle

Lesser sirens mature in two years. In early spring, female Lesser Sirens lay clumps of up to 200 eggs in a shallow protected underwater cavity. The Lesser Siren is entirely aquatic. It is found in slow-moving or still water with large quantities of leaf litter and other debris on the bottom, such as streams, ditches and swamps. It prefers water with abundant vegetation that it uses for shelter. During the day it can be found hidden in the litter. It forages at night for crayfish, small fish, worms, and aquatic insects. Although it has gills, the Lesser Siren also can get oxygen by gulping air into lungs. Like other sirens, this salamander survives drought by aestivation. It burrows into the mud and forms a cocoon of shed skin and mucus which protects it from drying. When the drought is over, the siren breaks out of the cocoon. Its lungs provide the minimal oxygen needed during aestivation, and a way to supplement its intake from warm, poorly oxygenated water during the summer.

Range

Lesser Siren Region Map The Lesser Siren is found throughout the lower Coastal Plain of Georgia. It can be found along the Flint, Ogeechee, and Savannah River systems almost to the Fall Line.

Conservation Status

This is the most common siren and the most widely distributed. It is not under any immediate threat. Destruction or modification of habitat by draining or filling swamps, ditches, or streams is a possible danger. Removing vegetation from ponds and streams, especially with aquatic herbicides, is harmful both directly to the siren and through reducing the quantity of habitat available.

Similar Species

Sirens can be mistaken for eels, but eels have fins and do not have external gills or legs. The Dwarf Siren has three toes on its front legs. An adult Lesser Siren can be difficult to distinguish from a small Greater Siren, but Greater Sirens have more light-colored markings on their sides and belly.