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Three-fifths of Alabama’s territory is part of the Gulf Coastal Plain, while the northern portion is mountainous.
The state serves as a natural habitat for hundreds of native and non-native animal species. Unfortunately, climate change, habitat loss and urbanization are major threats to some of these animals, which drew scientists’ attention to them and eventually listed them as Endangered or Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List.
Therefore, we will discuss some animals living in Alabama that are in danger of extinction.
1. Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle
These turtles (Lepidochelys kempii) are the rarest sea turtles in the world. Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles have a shell length of 23 to 28 inches and weigh about 79 to 99 pounds. They have fin-like forelimbs and dorsoventrally depressed bodies.
Since the 1980s, these turtles have been assessed by the IUCN Red List. It was then that they were classified as endangered for the first time. Today they are threatened with extinction. Their population has an 80% reduction. Between 1947 and 1985, their population suffered the sharpest decline, averaging 99.4-99.6%. Fortunately, this was a reversible phenomenon and population numbers increased in the 1990s.
Major threats to the Kemp population of Ridley sea turtles include fishing, predation, pollution, climate change, illegal harvesting and oil spills.
2. Alabama Cave Shrimp
The Alabama cave shrimp, scientifically called Palaemonias alabamaeShe lives in the caves of Alabama. More specifically, it lives in the caves in Madison County, Shelta Cave being its type locality. Some shrimp live in Bobcat Cave, Muddy Cave and the extensive Herring-Glover system. Unfortunately, 1973 is the last time we see the shrimp at the Shelta.
This species is in danger of extinction. Mainly because of groundwater extraction and chemical contamination of the water. In Shelta Cave, Alabama, cave shrimp are disappearing because the water is contaminated primarily by cadmium. In the Herring-Glover system, large chicken farms cause manure shedding, affecting the Alabama cave shrimp population.
3. Red Hills Salamander
This terrestrial salamander, scientifically called Phaeognathus hubrichti, measures about 10 inches and has a gray to tan body and short limbs. It is in Alabama and is the state’s official amphibian. It inhabits a small portion between the Red Hills region and the southern part of the state, mostly in the Tallahatta and Hatchetigbee geologic formations. The Red Hills salamander lives in dens.
The Red Hills salamander is currently listed as critically endangered. Its population is steadily declining. Timber harvesting has severely impacted their habitat and life cycles. Other threats include limited ability to disperse and low reproductive rate. In the future, they could be threatened by certain diseases, such as the salamander chytrid fungus.
Luckily, the Nature Conservancy acquired a piece of land that would serve as a natural habitat for this species. However, the state of Alabama adopted it for recreational use.
4. Scalloped Hammerhead
You’ve probably heard of the famous hammerhead sharks. Well, the scalloped hammerhead is an endangered hammerhead species. People also call it Kinky-Headed, Southern Hammerhead or Bronze. These sharks live in temperate and tropical coastal waters at depths of up to 1,600 feet.
In the United States, the scalloped hammerhead shark is found in the waters of coastal states such as Alabama, North Carolina, and Florida. Thanks to management, its population is improving in the Northwest Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico.
People catch this shark for its meat and fins. Also, many sharks die in ship collisions.
5. Princess Elimia
The Princess Elimia or Elimia Bellacrenata is a mollusk in the Srobeoconcha taxonomic clade. This mollusc is only found in Alabama. It is historically found in the springs and streams in Bibb, Shelby, and Tuscaloosa counties, and in the tributaries and streams of the Cahaba River drainage. Today, however, they inhabit a single place. They are listed as Critically Endangered.
Water quality is a major threat to their population. The population has declined by 50% in recent years and continues to decline as the water is subject to constant pollution.
6. Eastern small-footed bat
Myotis leibii are part of Vespertilionidae Microbat family. They are 2.5 – 3.7 inches long with a wingspan of 8.2 – 9.8 inches. They have very small hind paws and distinctive dark facial masks thanks to their black ears and snouts.
The species is listed as critically endangered. Its population is steadily declining. Scientists estimate that the eastern pygmy bat population has seen a decline of about 70% compared to historical numbers. The main cause and threat is the effects of white nose syndrome. Which is a disease from the Pseudogymnoascus destructans Fungus that affects the ears, snout and wings of bats.
In addition, these bats are suffering from habitat loss, particularly due to the collapse of mine roofs and the commercialization of caves for tourism.
Eastern little footed bats currently inhabit Canada and the United States. In Alabama, they live primarily in the northern region, where they prefer wooded and rocky areas, burrows, and other subterranean ecosystems.
7. Recovery pearl oyster
The recreation pearl oyster or winged ear of corn (Elliptio nigella). It is a freshwater clam endemic to the United States. The conservation status of this species has “changed” over the years.
The species became extinct between 1986 and 1990. However, it was “undetermined” in 1994, and then “critically endangered” in 1996, and “extinct” again in 2000.
Recreational pearl mussels are currently threatened with extinction again. Scientists think they may live in the Flint River, Georgia, but they’re not sure if the clams are still in Alabama and Florida. Pending further confirmation, however, we can assume and hope that Alabama is still home to recreational pearl mussels.
8. Keel-necked firefly
The quill-necked firefly belongs to the Lampyridae beetle family. It is currently found in New Jersey, Delaware, Florida and Alabama, where it lives in brackish tidal marshes and low-lying wet pastures.
The species is threatened with extinction. There are only 18 notable occurrences, with at least three in Florida and Alabama.
The main threats faced by keelneck fireflies are habitat loss, the spread of invasive plants, artificial night lights, and sea level rise. For example, the destruction of Florida’s salt marsh habitats by unsustainable coastal development, while rising sea levels may wipe out firefly habitat. A common invasive plant that can cause a decline in the keelneck firefly population is is Phragmites australisalso called reed.
9. Rusty Patched Bumblebee
Bombus affinis are endemic to North America, where they live in various temperate climate habitats. Their size varies between queens, workers and males. Appearance also differs – while queens and workers have black hairs on their heads, males have several white hairs.
Rust-spotted bumblebees are threatened with extinction. While historically they were abundant in the United States and Canada, their current range today is about 54.68% compared to their historical range. Few individuals remain in the east. Their presence is uncertain in many US states.
This significant decline is a result of pesticide use, habitat loss, fragmentation through development and agriculture, spread of pathogens from other species, and climate change.
10. White-spotted eagle ray
the white-spotted eagle ray, Aetobatus narinari, is a cartilaginous fish. It has a flat, disc-shaped body, a long tail, and five small gills on its underside. Its most striking feature is the dark back surface with white rings and spots. The fish inhabits tropical regions of the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans, although nowadays it is more commonly found in the Atlantic.
The species is threatened with extinction. Population decline of 50-79% in the last 30 years. The main threat to the white-spotted eagle ray population is fishing pressure.