Home Archived April 13, 2016
clear pixel
U. S. Geological Survey - click to go to the USGS homepage
clear pixel clear pixel


salamander graphic  


Medium-sized stream in high water at Whiteoak Flats Branch. - click to enlargeSpecies Richness

       A total of 31 salamanders and 13 frogs have been recorded from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Note that common names are capitalized, and that species names (consisting of a genus and specific epithet) are italicized. Species codes allow data to be entered in shorthand format. To minimize data entry errors, species codes should be either all capitalized or all in lower case letters. Capitals and lower-case letters should not be intermixed. Using accepted and standardized common and scientific names (Crother, 2000), the amphibians are:

Common name

Scientific name

Suggested species code


Spotted Salamander

Ambystoma maculatum


Marbled Salamander

Ambystoma opacum


Mole Salamander

Ambystoma talpoideum


Green Salamander

Aneides aeneus



Cryptobranchus alleganiensis


Seepage Salamander

Desmognathus aeneus


Spotted Dusky Salamander

Desmognathus conanti


Imitator Salamander

Desmognathus imitator


Shovel-nosed Salamander

Desmognathus marmoratus


Seal Salamander

Desmognathus monticola


Ocoee Salamander

Desmognathus ocoee


Black-bellied Salamander

Desmognathus quadramaculatus


Santeetlah Salamander

Desmognathus santeetlah


Pigmy Salamander

Desmognathus wrighti


Three-lined Salamander

Eurycea guttolineata


Junaluska Salamander

Eurycea junaluska


Long-tailed Salamander

Eurycea longicauda


Cave Salamander

Eurycea lucifuga


Blue Ridge Two-lined Salamander

Eurycea wilderae


Spring Salamander

Gyrinophilus porphyriticus


Four-toed Salamander

Hemidactylium scutatum


Common Mudpuppy

Necturus maculosus


Eastern Red-spotted Newt

Notophthalmus viridescens


Northern Slimy Salamander

Plethodon glutinosus


Jordan’s Salamander

Plethodon jordani


Southern Gray-cheeked Salamander

Plethodon metcalfi


Southern Appalachian Salamander

Plethodon oconaluftee


Southern Red-backed Salamander

Plethodon serratus


Southern Zigzag Salamander

Plethodon ventralis


Mud Salamander

Pseudotriton montanus


Black-chinned Red Salamander

Pseudotriton ruber



Northern Cricket Frog

Acris crepitans


American Toad

Bufo americanus


Fowler’s Toad

Bufo fowleri


Eastern Narrow-mouthed Toad

Gastrophryne carolinensis


Cope’s Gray Treefrog

Hyla chrysoscelis


Spring Peeper

Pseudacris crucifer


Upland Chorus Frog

Pseudacris feriarum


American Bullfrog

Rana catesbeiana


Northern Green Frog

Rana clamitans


Pickerel Frog

Rana palustris


Northern Leopard Frog

Rana pipiens


Wood Frog

Rana sylvatica


Eastern Spadefoot

Scaphiopus holbrooki





























salamander graphic       Amphibian taxonomy and systematics within the southern Appalachians are topics of intense debate among biologists. Rationale for using the listed names is provided by Dodd (2004).

Habitats and Distribution

       Five major forest communities are recognized within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, although 80 percent of the Park falls within the Eastern Deciduous Forest Ecosystem (Houk, 1993). Some botanists have further subdivided the vegetation into as many as 67 florally distinct communities. No one species of amphibian is associated entirely with a single forest community, although some of the high-elevation salamanders (Plethodon jordani, Desmognathus ocoee, D. wrighti) are more often found in the spruce-fir community than in other community types. Habitat structure, particularly one that retains moisture and high humidity, is important in shaping salamander distribution. The high-elevation coniferous forest appears ideal in providing shade, cover (in the form of coarse woody debris), and abundant surfaces for moisture condensation.

Figure 3. Spruce-fir forest at Indian Gap. - click to enlarge



 Figure 3.
Spruce-fir forest
 at Indian Gap.

       The spruce-fir forest (fig. 3) is dominated by Red Spruce (Picea rubens) and Fraser Fir (Abies fraseri), and is found generally above 1,676 m (5,500 ft), although the community descends to 1,372 m (4,500 ft) in some locations and individual Red Spruce are found at even lower elevations. This is the Canadian Zone boreal forest of high moisture, cool or cold temperatures, and high humidity (Houk, 1993). Ground surface is often dense with fallen tree branches and trunks, and carpeted by thick layers of tree needles. Wet, rotten, woody debris and dense needle mats provide ideal hiding places for terrestrial salamanders. Streams originate in this habitat, usually beginning as small seeps and springs. As streams trickle through the dark-green forest, they gather momentum. Even at higher elevations, aquatic salamanders, particularly duskies (Desmognathus) and Blue Ridge Two-lined Salamanders (Eurycea wilderae), may be plentiful within the headwater streams.

Figure 4. Deciduous forest at Lynn Hollow. - click to enlarge Figure 4. Deciduous forest at Lynn Hollow.

At somewhat lower elevations (1,067-1,524 m; 3,500-5,000 ft), deciduous northern hardwoods (fig. 4) predominate, such as Sugar Maples (Acer saccharum), American Beech (Fagus grandifolia), and Yellow Birch (Betula alleghaniensis). Many terrestrial and aquatic salamanders reach their lower or upper distributional range within this community; frogs are scarce. Cove hardwoods, the third community, comprise the most diverse forest community in the Smokies, one that is endemic to the southern Appalachian Mountains. It occurs generally below 1,372 m (4,500 ft) in sheltered valleys, and is dominated by Tulip Poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera), Dogwood (Cornus florida), Red Maple (Acer rubrum), Sweetgum (Liquidamber styraciflua), White Basswood (Tilia americana var. heterophylla), Yellow Buckeye (Aesculus flava), and Black Birch (Betula lenta). Both hardwood communities have complex understory vegetation, often with much coarse woody debris, which provides cover for terrestrial salamanders. The streams through these hardwood forests are rocky and fast paced, and salamanders are very common along streamsides and in the water.

Figure 5. Hemlock forest at Chinquapin Knob. - click to enlarge Figure 5. Hemlock forest at Chinquapin Knob.

       Two somewhat specialized forest communities are found in the Smokies. The hemlock community (fig. 5) is dominated by Eastern Hemlocks (Tsuga canadensis), commonly called spruce-pines by natives of the southern mountains, and is common between 1,067-1,524 m (3,500-5,000 ft) in elevation. Hemlocks descend to much lower elevations along cold mountain stream valleys, and overlap considerably with both hardwood forests and the spruce-fir forest of the higher elevations. Hemlocks are massive with tall, straight trunks. When they fall, they provide excellent habitat for salamanders, both in the rotting wood and under exfoliating bark (fig. 6).

       The pine-oak forest (fig. 7) occupies the drier areas of the Park, particularly the area west of Cades Cove and at mid-elevations on the North Carolina side of the Park. This forest is dominated by Southern Red (Quercus falcata), Northern Red (Q. rubra), Scarlet (Q. coccinea), Black (Q. velutina), and Chestnut (Q. prinus) Oaks, and by Pitch (Pinus rigida), White (P. strobus), and Table Mountain (P. pungens) Pines. Soils are dry, as is the leaf litter. Prior to human intervention, this community burned frequently in the western regions of the Park, and a fire-adapted vegetation community resulted. Terrestrial salamanders are few, and usually found only during cool, wet times of the year.

Figure 6. Coarse woody debris in Cove forest at Roaring Fork. Note the pink survey flags marking the position of transects. - click to enlarge Figure 6. Coarse woody debris in Cove forest at Roaring Fork. Note the pink survey flags marking the position of transects.

Aquatic-breeding salamanders and frogs are found along streamsides, where they likely remain close to water. The bottomlands along Cane Creek and Abrams Creek likely formed a corridor from the Tennessee Valley into Cades Cove. As a result, amphibian species richness is surprisingly high, particularly for frogs.

       Amphibians are not uniformly distributed throughout the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. There are wide-ranging species, species restricted to specialized habitats, and species found in only one area of the Park. frog graphicMonitoring programs will need to take the distribution of species into account to optimize time and financial resources. A few generalizations can be made about amphibian distribution and habitats within the Park.

Salamanders || Frogs

salamander graphic


clear pixel
clear pixel clear pixel

U.S. Department of the Interior
U.S. Geological Survey

clear pixel clear pixel