The Texas blind salamander only grows up to 5.5 inches long.
Some 300 tiny, blind salamanders have gone missing from a San Marcos federal research facility — and experts say it could impact the future of an already endangered species.
The small population of Texas blind salamanders, native only to a 25-mile aquifer beneath San Marcos, had been kept in the San Marcos Aquatic Resources Center as insurance against a population die-off in the wild. Police say another captive animal could have escaped, removed the cover from the salamander's tank, and eaten all of them — but it's a stretch. There's little evidence left behind — and the center has no surveillance system in place.
Federal investigators say the salamanders could have been lifted for their black market appeal — the species' rareness makes the stolen population worth about $15,000.
Still, the center's director Ken Ostrand told the Austin American-Statesman
he doesn't know why someone would want to steal them.
“Why would someone want tiger penis? Why would someone want shark fin? I don’t know,” he said. “It’s very heartbreaking for me. Nothing like this has ever happened here before."
The feds are ramping up security on endangered species labs across the state as investigators try to track down the missing population.