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10 Animals Endemic to Texas

by
May 17th, 2023

Texas is a big and beautiful state, with a wide variety of flora and fauna that calls the state home.

Before we jump into the species list, it’s important to note that there aren’t too many animal species (aside from plant species) that are only found in Texas and nowhere else in the nation. 

And, when you think about it, it makes sense, right? What we know as Texas today, with its iconic boundary, state flag and license plate designs, is really just an idea constructed by us humans. The birds, animals and insects that share this vast land with us don’t recognize state boundaries, nor do they feel any particular sort of loyalty to said boundaries. They fly, run and grow where the wind, sun and water leads them — which, more often than not, leads them outside state lines.

It’s much easier to talk about species endemic to, say, Hawaii where the species are completely and utterly isolated from the rest of the world. Here in Texas, though, we can only examine species that are more concentrated here than anywhere else in the world or, if they are found elsewhere in the nation, spend most of their time here. 

That being said, let’s dive into some of Texas’ endemic (and endemic-ish) species!

10 animals only found in the Lone Star State

Austin blind salamander

Totally blind and fully aquatic, this slippery little guy can only be found in underground caves in and around Barton Springs in Austin.

Cagle’s map turtle

The shell and skin of this small turtle resembles a topographic map — hence the name! It’s endemic to the Guadalupe, San Marcos and San Antonio Rivers in Texas. 

Comanche Springs pupfish

Pupfishes are small fish that are typically found in isolated locations with high temperatures or other extreme living circumstances (like the Death Valley pupfish, for example!).

These speckled pupfish are only found in a system of irrigation canals in Reeves County, where their dwindling population is being monitored by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 

Guadalupe Bass

This greenish-blackish bass is a prize catch among anglers in central Texas, where they can only be found in the San Marcos, Guadalupe, Llano and Colorado Rivers. 

And, fun fact, it’s also the state fish!

Guadalupe spiny softshell turtle

Keep an eye out for this dark, flat-shelled turtle if you’re around the Nueces and Guadalupe Rivers, as it's a rare and special sight to see! 

Houston toad

Endemic to oak and pine woodlands and savannas in a small region in southeastern Texas this little brown toad has been an officially endangered species since 1973, just three decades after it was first discovered. 

As of 2021, there were only 250 known adults remaining in the wild and, if habitat destruction and drought conditions continue, that number could still be decreasing. 

🙁

Louisiana pine snake

This endemic-ish species can be found in East Texas and west-central Louisiana, where it meanders through open pine forests and savannahs in search of eggs and gophers to munch on.

The Louisiana pine snake is considered to be one of the rarest snakes on the continent, since its spectacular camouflage and dwindling numbers mean humans rarely get a chance to see the snake in the wild anymore.  

Rio Grande gold tarantula

This is a species we wish were endemic to literally anywhere else, just to avoid ever seeing this critter hanging out on our apartment patio. 

In all honesty, though, tarantulas are essential pieces of our environment and play a large part in insect control. Plus, these particular tarantulas can only be found in the Rio Grande Valley portion of Texas, so you’re not likely to see them anyway.

Texas garter snake

Identifiable by the single orange stripe running down this snake’s black-bodied spine, the solitary and harmless Texas garter snake is a rare but pleasant sight among nature enthusiasts. 

Though garter snakes are found all over the Western United States, this particular species is confined to central Texas, with smaller populations also found in Kansas and Oklahoma.

(Like we said: endemic-ish)

Texas river cooter

What’s a cooter, you ask?

Great question!

Cooters are reptiles in the genus Pseudemys, a category of three freshwater turtle species that are found in the southeastern United States and northeastern Mexico. Nearly all cooters are identifiable by the yellow stripes on their heads and legs, and most also sport a dark brown, green or black shell. 

This particular cooter can only be found in the Nueces, San Antonio, Colorado, Guadalupe, San Bernard and Brazos River basins.

Widemouth blindcat

This species of freshwater catfish is the only species in the genus Satan, and you’ll soon understand why.

Deep below the bowels of San Antonio runs the Edwards Aquifer, a massive subterranean habitat a thousand feet below the surface of the Earth. It’s here that both freshwater and saltwater meet, creating a murky zone of “bad water” that few species can tolerate, let alone survive.

Except, of course, Satan.

The Satan fish, as it’s called, is the top dog on the food chain here in the utterly dark, murky depths of Texas, where it devours anything that passes by its blind, unseeing eyes — Satan is blind, of course, as there is no need for sight where the light never touches. It feeds using smell, heat, touch and taste, and its pale translucent skin has no need for color in the deep, unending darkness.

Satan was first discovered in the 1930s, when an unknowing human drew up the terrifying fish from a well and donated the specimen to a local museum, but the last humanity ever saw of this fish was in 1978. SInce then, the species has disappeared.

Is Satan still out there? Are they lurking below the bowels of San Antonio, or have they begun their trek to the surface to exact revenge on us for capturing one of their own?

No need to panic, though, since they’re only 4 inches long at most

… as far as we know…

Anyways, keep your eye out for these endemic species next time you’re out hiking, swimming and trekking through parks around Texas, especially the ones around our luxury Dallas apartments

Enjoy!

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Featured photo courtesy Pixabay/27707

Author of Article

Colleen Ford is a South African who now lives in Spokane, Washington. She loves to travel, camp (in warm weather) and bake.

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