Sirens (family Sirenidae
) never leave the water, and while they have lungs, they also breathe with feathery external gills and through their skin. When removed from the water, their gills fold up. They have dark bodies, very small front legs and no hind legs. They produce a soapy mucus on their skin. If their water habitat dries up, they coat themselves in the mucus and seal themselves in the mud, reemerging when it rains.
The Narrow-striped Dwarf Siren
, Pseudobranchus striatus axanthus
, is found among the roots of freshwater vegetation and in shallow, grassy roadside ditches across northern Florida and the northwest peninsula, as well as in scattered areas in central and south Florida. Its body is dark brown with two thin lighter stripes down the sides. There are light spots on the belly and a stripe on the underside of the tail. It has three toes on each leg and may reach a length of 10". Their diet consists of small aquatic invertebrates.
During the winter and early spring, up to 12 eggs are scattered among plant roots. They hatch within several weeks. The larvae have broad white stripes on their sides.
The Everglades Dwarf Siren
, Pseudobranchus striatus belli
, is found near water hyacinths in south Florida. Reaching only 6" in length, this siren has bold buff to yellow striping. The head is pointed.
The Gulf Hammock Dwarf Siren
, Pseudobranchus striatus lustricolus
, is found only in the Gulf Hammock region. It is black with white flecks and many thin stripes. There is a silvery stripe on its belly. It grows to over 8" long.
The Slender Dwarf Siren
, Pseudobranchus striatus spheniscus
, is found in the central panhandle. It has a wedge-shaped head and slender body with two brown stripes on each side.
The Eastern Lesser Siren
, Siren intermedia
, is found in shallow quiet waters in north Florida and in scattered areas in central Florida. It is slender, black to slate gray with dark spots, and has a pointed tail. It has four toes on each leg and reaches a length of 26". Its diet consists primarily of aquatic invertebrates.
The female lays eggs in the mud in December and guards them until they hatch in March. The tiny (0.4") larvae look like the adults but have a red band across their heads.
The Greater Siren
, Siren lacertina
, is found in calm, hyacinth-covered lakes and slow-moving rivers and canals throughout the state. It is gray green or brown with lighter flecks along the sides. Its external gills are usually dark red and the tip of its tail is rounded. It has four toes on each leg. It reaches a maximum length of 38.5". It is nocturnal and searches the lake bottom and thick vegetation for food.
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