The reticulated siren, a type of salamander, has been identified as its own species, the New York Times reports.
The Times notes that there had been rumors of a third type of siren in addition to the lesser siren and greater siren, in swaps in the Southeastern US, but Sul Ross State University's Sean Graham tells the Times it had been mostly a "campfire story." He and his colleagues, though, managed to catch samples of what had been dubbed a 'leopard eel,' which they then analyzed in their spare time, according to the Times.
They have described this new species, now called Siren reticulata, or the reticulated siren, in PLOS One. While Graham and his colleagues write that the reticulated siren does differ morphologically from the lesser siren and greater siren — the reticulated siren has a different color pattern and head shape, for instance — the genetic analysis provides further evidence it is a separate species. Their Bayesian analysis strongly supported placing S. reticulata at the base of all known taxa in the genus Siren, though their maximum likelihood gave that placement less support.
Co-author David Steen from the Georgia Sea Turtle Center tells the Times that their analysis also suggested there could be additional siren species. "A lot of the animals we thought were greater sirens and lesser sirens are probably the reticulated siren or other animals that we haven't formally recognized," he says.