Reptiles and Amphibians Associated with Texas Pocket Gopher (Geomys personatus) Burrow Systems Across the Texas Sand Sheet

Author(s): Aleyda P. Galan and Jessica E. Light

Published: October 2017

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Pocket gophers (Rodentia: Geomyidae) are herbivorous solitary rodents that are highly modified morphologically for their fossorial lifestyle, enabling them to dig elaborate subterranean burrow systems (Stein 2000; Hafner et al. 2003; Merrit 2010). These burrow systems create unique environments for other organisms to invade and use, potentially leading to long-term interactions (Hafner et al. 2000, 2003). There have been multiple reported cases of associations between pocket gophers and invertebrates (e.g., Hubbell and Goff 1940; Blume and Summerlin 1988; Cameron 2000; Kovarik et al. 2008; Tisheckin and Cline 2008) as well as vertebrates, specifically mammals and herpetofauna (Table 1). Notably, many of the studies on the vertebrate associate of pocket gophers are restricted to a small number of pocket gopher species and geographic localities (Table 1). Here we present documented associations between the Texas Pocket Gopher (Geomys personatus) and other taxa, specifically herpetofauna.

Geomys personatus is endemic to the native coastal prairies and deep, sandy soils found throughout northeastern Tamualipa, Mexico, and much of southern Texas (Williams 1982; Schmidly and Bradley 2016). The burrow systems of these pocket gophers are prominent features of the natural habitats of the Texas Sand Sheet (the Coastal Sand Plains of the Southern Texas Plains ecoregion) and are comprised of several chambers and tunnels extending up to 30 m in length, and may be as much as 3 m deep (Williams 1982; Fig. 1). During efforts to capture G. personatus, nine species of herpetofauna were observed utilizing pocket gopher burrow systems. To our knowledge, these observations represent the first documented association of these species with G. personatus burrow systems. Here, we document our findings, add to the current literature of pocket gopher
associates, and discuss the potential mechanisms driving these associations.