programs Natural Resources

Ongoing Research

Central Texas Freshwater Mussels (smooth pimpleback, Rotundaria houstonensis; Texas pimpleback, Quadrula petrina; Texas fatmucket, Lampsilis bracteata; Texas fawnsfoot, Truncilla macrodon; false spike, Fusconaia mitchelli)

Until recently, the mussels of central Texas were mostly a mystery. Their distribution, life cycle and habitat needs and threats to the species were not known.

East Texas Freshwater Mussels (Louisiana pigtoe, triangle pigtoe, Texas heelsplitter)

Recent research – although limited – shows the freshwater mussels of East Texas have declined in number, most likely because of historical over-harvesting, habitat degradation, loss of host fish species and the introduction of non-native invasive mussel species.

Eastern Black Rail (Laterallus jamaicensis jamaicensis)

The eastern black rail is listed as endangered by six eastern states, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed to list it as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

Black-spotted Newt (Notophthalmus meridionalis)

The black-spotted newt lives along the coastal plain of Texas from the San Antonio River to the Rio Grande. The historical range of the species extends for several hundred more miles along the Gulf Coast into Mexico.

Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus)

No insect under review by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has received more attention at the highest levels of government than the monarch butterfly.

Plains Spotted Skunk (Spilogale putorius interrupta)

The historic range of the plains spotted skunk covers most of the central plains in the United States from Texas to Wyoming. The Katy Prairie northwest of Houston is home to one of the last known populations in Texas.

Rio Grande Cooter (Pseudemys gorzugi)

Although the historic range of the Rio Grande cooter covers thousands of square miles in the United States and Mexico, it is one of the least studied turtles in North America.

Spot-tailed Earless Lizard (Holbrookia lacerata)

The spot-tailed earless lizard is notable for a row of black spots on the underside of its tail, for a lack of external ear openings and for confusing generations of Texas herpetologists.

Texas Kangaroo Rat (Dipodomys elator)

According to biologists, over the last 100 years, the Texas kangaroo rat range has decreased from 13 counties (11 counties in North Texas and two in Southern Oklahoma) to only five counties in Texas.

Landscape-Level Habitat Assessments in West and South Texas

Two species considered for listing under the Endangered Species Act – the desert massasauga (Sistrurus catenatus edwardsii) and the spot-tailed earless lizard (Holbrookia lacerata) – are among the diverse species of West and South Texas grasslands.

Ecosystem Assessment of Matagorda Bay

Spanning over 400 square miles of the Central Texas coast, Matagorda Bay serves as a rich resource for numerous industries including commercial and recreational fishing, commercial oystering, farming and agriculture, and tourism.