We are a group interested in the ecology, life history, behavior, and conservation of amphibians and reptiles (also known as herpetofauna or herps). Our research involves fieldwork, lab work, and sometimes working with museum specimens.
Conservation of amphibians and reptiles
About 40% of species of amphibians and 21% of species of non-avian reptiles (globally) are classified as critically endangered, endangered, or vulnerable (Cox et al. 2022). Species in tropical regions are most at risk for both groups, but declines are also occurring in North America (Adams et al. 2013). In 2022, the Lamb Lab began working on research projects with local collaborators that focus on the detection and monitoring of species at-risk in the Midwestern US (e.g., the Blanding's Turtle [Emydoidea blandingii] and Four-toed Salamander [Hemidactylium scutatum]). These projects support students interested in careers in conservation and management, will incorporate newer methods for population monitoring, and will hopefully generate data with practical applications for managing these herpetofauna.
Photo note: Blanding's Turtle (Emydoidea blandingii) found during Summer 2022 surveys. Handled with appropriate permits. Photo: Bailey Richards.
Biofluoresence, color, & pattern
Biofluoresence occurs across amphibian diversity and in many other tetrapods. The Lamb Lab and collaborators are interested in understanding the mechanisms behind, variation in, and the evolution of biofluoresence in herps. We are also interested in understanding other aspects of color and pattern in these organisms. These traits may play key roles in communication and signaling between species or within populations.
Photo note: Tiger Salamanders (Ambystoma tigrinum) biofluoresce bright green (pictured here) when viewed under blue excitation light and through a long-pass filter. Photo: J.Y. Lamb.
Photo note: Frogs like this Cranwell's Horned Frog (Ceratophrys cranwelli), also known as a Pac-man frog, also biofluoresce. Photo: J.Y. Lamb & M.P. Davis.
Behavior, life history, & population ecology
Amphibians and reptiles exhibit diverse and interesting behaviors and ecologies, but there are numerous missing details, including for species in the United States. We are interested in filling those gaps, particularly where they impact our understanding of reproduction and life history. These kinds of information can contribute to the development of effective conservation and management strategies.
Photo note: A larval Blue-spotted Salamander (Ambystoma laterale). Photo by: J.Y. Lamb & A.M. Seymour.
Photo note: A male Western Dwarf Salamander (Eurycea paludicola) with long cirri (fleshy extensions from the snout). Photo by: J.Y. Lamb.
Population genetics & systematics
J.Y. Lamb (PI) works with collaborators to use genetic tools to understand the ecology, behavior, and diversity of salamanders in the Coastal Plain. Projects have included species descriptions & systematics, and describing patterns of population differentiation, gene flow, and movement.
Photo note: A female Valentine's Southern Dusky Salamander (Desmognathus valentinei), a species described by J.Y. Lamb and colleagues. She has her developing embryos clustered above her head. Photo by: J.Y. Lamb.
Selection of Recent Publications
* indicates student co-authors at the time of publication.
Pyron, R.A., O'Connell, K.A., Lamb, J.Y., and Beamer, D.A. 2022. A new, narrowly endemic species of swamp-dwelling dusky salamander (Plethodontidae: Desmognathus) from the Gulf Coastal Plain of Mississippi and Alabama. Zootaxa 5133(1): 53 - 82. DOI: 10.11646/ZOOTAXA.5133.1.3
Wen, F., Ljustina, O., Vicknair, W., *Perrera, B., and Lamb, J.Y. 2021. Reproductive phenology and the larval period of the Western Dwarf Salamander (Eurycea paludicola) in Southeastern Louisiana. Southeastern Naturalist 20(1): 37 – 50. DOI: 10.1656/058.020.0104
Lamb, J.Y. and Davis, M.P. 2020. Salamanders and other amphibians are aglow with biofluorescence. Scientific Reports 10: 2821. DOI: 10.1038/s41598-020-59528-9
Lamb, J.Y. 2019. Skin sloughing and sperm cap loss during courtship in dusky salamanders (Genus Desmognathus). Southeastern Naturalist 18(3). DOI: 10.1656/058.018.0304
Lamb, J.Y., Kreiser, B.R., Waddle, J.H., and Qualls, C.Q. 2017. Characterization of microsatellite loci for the Gulf Coast waterdog (Necturus beyeri) using paired-end Illumina shotgun sequencing and cross-amplification in other Necturus. Herpetological Review 48(4): 758 – 763.
Lamb, J.Y. 2017. Sexual isolation between two sympatric Desmognathus in the Gulf Coastal Plain. Copeia 105(2): 261 – 268. DOI: 10.1643/CE-16-565
Means, D.B., Lamb, J.Y., and Bernardo, J. 2017. A new species of dusky salamander (Amphibia: Plethodontidae: Desmognathus) from the Eastern Gulf Coastal Plain and a redescription of D. auriculatus. Zootaxa 4263(3): 467 – 506. DOI: 10.11646/zootaxa.4263.3.3.
Lamb, J.Y., Waddle, J. H., and Qualls, C. Q. 2017. Estimating occurrence and detection probabilities for stream-breeding salamanders in the Gulf Coastal Plain. Journal of Herpetology 51(1): 102 – 108. DOI: 10.1670/16-050
Other publications, press, & video recordings
Opinions & editorials
Lamb, J.Y. "Science Glows with Expanding Perspectives." St. John’s Outdoor University’s Sagatan Seasons. Summer 2021. Download a PDF here.
Photo note: J.Y. Lamb holding a male Western Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta bellii) while students Michael (left) and Bailey (right) collect data from other individuals.
Press about biofluoresence
NatureResearch: Behind the Paper. "Fluorescing frogs and neon newts." J.Y. Lamb & M.P. Davis.
Science. “Newts and frogs light up like glow sticks under the right light.” Rodrigo Pérez Ortega.
ScienceNews. “Glowing frogs and salamanders may be surprisingly common.” Erin Garcia de Jesus.
The New York Times. “Salamanders and Frogs Hide a Glowing Secret.” JoAnna Klein.
Wired. "So, Amphibians Glow. Humans Just Couldn’t See It - Until Now.” Matt Simon.
DiscoverMagazine. “Glow-in-the-Dark Amphibians Are Way More Common Than Scientists Thought.” Leslie Nemo.
Seminars & other video
St. Cloud TedX. "The glowing creatures hidden in your backyard." J.Y. Lamb & M.P. Davis.
North Dakota State University Environmental & Conservation Sciences seminar. "Casting a Wide Net: Amphibian Ecology & Conservation."